Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Day Of Fasting

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. - 1 Corinthians 7:20-24

During my meditation week a friend of mine sent me a flyer for a day of fasting organized by the Muslim Student Union at USC. The day of fasting was to raise money for a local organization that clothes and feeds folks who need a little extra help.

When I received the email and her invitation to join I must admit… I wasn’t feeling it. I was at the beginning of what I knew would be a long and challenging week of meditation and self denial. Do I want to do MORE fasting the following Wednesday?

No I did not.

But I have never truly fasted in the strict dietary sense of the word. I’ve done the master cleanse. I’ve done extended periods of focused meditation and prayer; but I’ve never gone a day without eating or drinking. I was intrigued and a bit afraid that I wouldn’t make it, and as a result, I committed to do it.

The day snuck up on me and in the morning I almost forgot! As I had a cup of water in my hand I thought “wait a minute, isn’t today the day that I am supposed to fast?” Dang it… yes it was. And I was thirsty too. I put the cup down thinking hey, maybe if it gets rough through the day I could say that I forgot. Then the more gangsta side of me clowned the punk side of me and I told myself to suck it up. It’s only a day. I’m gonna eat at the reception at 6 pm anyway. It can’t be that hard right?

Well… it wasn’t easy.

I got to work and on cue it was an exceedingly frustrating day. Folks were badgering me for things they needed blah blah blah. I got annoyed very quickly. But in reality it wasn’t any different than any other day. The lack of food and drink was already getting to me.

Man. is food and water really this serious?

I wondered what it must be like for folks who wake up in the morning not knowing where their next meal would come from. After thinking about this for a while and plugging away at my work the hunger pains subsided.

I made it safely to lunch only to find the office smelling like some really good fried chicken.


But it’s cool. I took a walk. During my lunch break I read my book and relaxed. I let my mind wander into the contents of my dreams and desires. Me and God chilled and talked for a minute. It was nice.

Then the day wrapped up. It was about 5:30 and time to catch the bus over to the mosque at USC. My body started to revolt. “FEED ME” it said. When yelling didn’t work it whispered quiet suggestions. “Just one gulp of water before you get on the bus. That’ll be fine.” But naw… I couldn’t punk out when I had just thirty minutes to go!

But the last leg of the journey was tough. The bus let me off at Exposition and Figueroa, right at the outskirts of USC. Google maps told me that I had to walk to the other end of the campus all the way down Exposition. It gave me no options for a bus. I just had to walk from Figueroa to Vermont. Good gracious that took forever! It must have been at least two miles if it wasn’t twenty. With an empty stomach and a parched mouth it felt like I should have had Lewis and Clark with me on the journey. And to top it off, all of these buses that I could have jumped on, had I known, whizzed by me on Exposition. I was mad at google maps, mad at food and drink, mad at my shoes, and mad at God for suggesting that I take up this ridiculous challenge.

But of course I arrived safe and sound, a little hungry, a little irritated, but in one piece.

I met my friend outside the mosque and she walked me in. We went down the separate staircases for men and women and entered a large room where the dinner and presentation was going to be. Right at the front door they had a bowl of dates to break the fast.

I hadn’t tasted something so good in my life since I broke the master cleanse with that first glass of orange juice. It was good I tell ya!

Then I got some lemonade and some water and soon everyone got their dinner. The food was fantastic but the thing I remember most was the main speaker. His name was Dr. Maher Hathout, brother of Hassan Hathout. He spoke for just a few brief minutes but they were jam packed with a life’s worth of wisdom about fasting.

He said the ability to deny ourselves is something that is uniquely human. It is what sets us apart from all other species on this planet. Through this self denial we can find freedom. We live in a world where we are taught that we are free when we have more. We are free when we consume. But in reality it is those people who profit off of our consumption that sell us these lies in exchange for our bondage. The more we consume the more we become shackled by these things that really have no value at the end of the day. What we think is freedom is really slavery.

The succinct way he delivered this truth blew my mind.
He challenged us to learn from our day of fasting and to apply these lessons to our lives everyday.

He sure did teach me something. When I look at the financial condition of this country I can see that what he said was true. Many of us overextended ourselves over the past several years. We bought houses, cars, and toys that we couldn’t afford. Through credit we heaped luxuries upon our backs that our labor could not support. We are now learning the hard way the virtue that less often times is more; that we don’t need anything more in this word than God, love, and companionship.

I thought about how my body responded to the fast during the day and it was telling. The times that I felt the hungriest and thirstiest where the times when I was thinking about what I couldn’t have. In those moments I felt shackled. But in reality I wasn’t. The true shackles where my expectations of plenty, my urges to satiate even the smallest of my desires immediately.

Dr. Hathout helped me to see the true beauty in Jesus’ forty days and forty nights of fasting in the wilderness and the strength he must have had to withstand the tests that the devil brought. Then and there He provided us an example of true freedom.

Freedom lies not in what we can have but in what we desire. Freedom cannot be given or taken away. Freedom lies within. If our spirit is free, then so too can our bodies and hearts be free.

And when we start to grasp at that freedom we will see the truth. We will look back at the paths we have walked and realize that all along, we could fly.


  1. Beautiful piece. It is amazing what we can see in ourselves when we clear away the clutter.

  2. Hello Man of God,
    I think this post reflects the heart of LOVE. I believe love and faith are synonymous of one another by being excuted with action.

    Its important to get out of the way and show others that power working in you through what you "do". The fact that you denied yourself to support someone else’s faith for a good cause of Charity, is the universal language of LOVE.

    Looks an awful lot like God being big in you, but in a different way...Impressive

    Much Love


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