Prayer (Photo credit: Chris Yarzab)
I’ve felt the prompting to do so a while ago.
But I kept coming up with excuses. Can’t do it right now, because so and so. Some excuses were legitimate, others were not.
The day before I went to the Gungor concert, I arrived at church 7a, sat in my office ready to do some morning devotionals… I opened my Bible and I couldn’t focus. So I grabbed my guitar and went to our sanctuary, and sat behind the big cross in our sanctuary, where the choir sits in our first service.
I sing a lot of my prayers. It makes no sense to me, still, why singing my prayers seem so natural when I’m alone. I’d be thoroughly embarrassed if someone were to walk in on me. But I begin to sing/pray. Things got more intense. And suddenly, I’m no longer aware of where I am, what I’m saying, what I’m doing or what I’m praying. It was the Korean Church in me that started pouring out. When it was all said and done, I walked away with a clear, distinct message: it’s time, no more excuses.
But… I came up with excuses. Of course.
At the Gungor concert, during one of their songs, I heard it again: No more excuses. It’s time.
Well… now might not be the best time…
Then on Sunday, I was listening to the pastor preach about “Practice, Practice, Practice” as we were going through our Lenten Sermon Series (and all-church small group study), The Power of a Whisper by Bill Hybels. In our youth small groups, we talked about practicing to be in the presence of God, and I shared with the youth the importance of spiritual disciplines. Pastor was basically preaching the same message.
Okay. I get it. I hear you. I knew, it’s time. No more excuses.
I hadn’t done a fast for years. I think the last time I actually fasted was in ’09.
God had placed in my heart to do one a while back, and I kept postponing and delaying it making excuse after excuse. (One of the excuses? Well, there’s a dinner meeting I have to go to, so it’ll put a cramp on that week… maybe a little bit later, God.) But after the week I had, I knew that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) put if off anymore.
So I decided to do a 3-day fast, because I felt that it would be easy.
I entered the fast with 2 specific prayer request.
First and foremost for a child. I’m sharing that only so that those who read this can also remember us in your prayers.
And as odd this next sentence may sound, the second prayer request is a bit more private and personal. I know, I know, more personal than pregnancy prayers? Yes, and we’ll just leave it at that.
I learned a lot about myself in the past 3 days.
Mainly, how much clutter is in my life. Okay, I use the word “clutter” to not sound so uhm… I guess “fundamental”. But, I learned months ago that though my theology is rather moderate, my methodology and how I view worship and church would fit right in with the “evangelicals.” Anyhoo what I’m trying to say is I learned how much sin was in my life.
The biggest sin? Pride and arrogance.
I picked 3 days of fasting over 5, because I thought that it would be easy because I’ve done 3 days fasts before. I took it way too easy and lightly. And I was paying for it.
I have never felt so tired. Never felt so drained in a fast. By the day’s end, I was exhausted. Perhaps if I approached it with more reverence and humility, it wouldn’t have been as difficult.
Meetings were exhausting. Sitting and listening took so much out of me, I was rather embarrassed. And I know I looked tired and may appeared un-attentive or even disinterested during those meetings. I assure you, I was paying attention and knew what was going on. I apologize for appearing that way. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t hide it or fake it.
I also realized my dependance on things not God.
Caffeine was a big one. Before the first day was half over, I started getting a dull headache and realized it was from the lack of caffeine. The headache wouldn’t go away, so I had to compromise and drink a little bit of caffeinated tea that my wife graciously brewed.
I also try to limit my intake of needless and mindless entertainment. It was difficult to cut back on the Internet because of how I’m always connected to it.
I realized why addiction is a sin: it replaces what God can and should provide.
Funnily enough, yesterday’s devotion from My Utmost for His Highest was about yielding. He wrote:
I am the one responsible for having yielded myself to whatever it may be…When you yield to something, you will soon realize the tremendous control it has over you. Even though you say, “Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,” you will know you can’t. You will find that the habit absolutely dominates you because you willingly yielded to it. It is easy to sing, “He will break every fetter,” while at the same time living a life of obvious slavery to yourself. But yielding to Jesus will break every kind of slavery in any person’s life.
Ouch. I read that entry over and over. On the last day, and arguably the toughest, this was my devotional reading.
I think the biggest reason why this was one of the longest 3 days of my life was that I was trying to fight for my independence from God, while depending on other things, which weren’t bad, harmful nor malicious in any way, but took more and more space and priority in my heart, where God should be.
I was yielding to all sorts of things, but reluctant to yield to God. The fact that I felt the nudge to fast last October-ish, and I finally did it this week (in mid-March) was a loud, blaring testament to my (whether subconscious or conscious) fighting for independence from God while looking for other things to depend on. And during these 3 days, I realized how much I needed to depend on God in all things life and ministry, like approaching church meetings depending on God for strength and wisdom.
It’s a very uncomfortable, queasy feeling being confronted by God’s Spirit with the truth. My brother constantly uses the word “jacked”, like “my reading today just jacked me up.” Not in an hyped up way, but in a way that let him know of his brokenness. I finally understand what he means by that. I’ve been convicted by readings before… but this time, this fast kicked my physical and spiritual ass up, down and all over the place.
About two hours before my fast was to end, I found myself home alone. The wife went to pick up groceries to make porridge (the official food to break fast in our family). I didn’t expect this time for myself. But, I took it as a prompting, a whisper if you will.
I grabbed my guitar and just sat, played and prayed.
As I was praying for strength and just obedience… all of a sudden, Psalm 51 came to mind. And I begin to pray that. “Create in me a new heart and renew your steadfast spirit in me.”
I need(ed) to yield to God more. Actually, I need to learn how to yield only to God. So much easier said than done.
While I entered the fast with my own agendas (pride/arrogance, again) God had a lesson to teach me.
My eyes are now open. So are my heart and soul.
However, I know how dense, dull and thick-headed I am. Six months from now, it is very, very possible that I may go through this again. And I’m giving myself more credit than deserved by saying “Six months from now.”
But I’m hoping and praying that this lesson stays with me for the rest of my life. I don’t want to re-learn it, at least not this way.
As I was ready to go to sleep without being hungry, I was just overwhelmed with gratitude.
I just saw how blessed I truly am. I mean, I knew and know that we are really blessed, but I don’t know. It just.. was overwhelming to know that I have a home. A job. A staff that I absolutely adore. A wife that I don’t have enough words to describe how awesome she is. Parents and Parents in-law who pray to tears over and for us. A brother who I can learn from, but don’t admit to him that I learn stuff from him here and there. Friends and colleagues. Insurance.
I am truly blessed and in a place and situation where I can, in return, bless God by loving the very people that God loves.
As for the 2 prayer requests I went in with.
A part of me hoped that somehow, someway my fasting can move God to make it happen already. All I kept hearing was, “wait.” How much longer? And why? I have no idea.
But, I should apply the lesson I learned, and just yield to God.
I’m (re-)beginning to see and really understand how much easier life can be if we stop fighting and just yield to God, and God alone. And how easy it is to always fight and think I know better. But, yielding to God and only to God leads to the most fulfilling life we can live.
How fitting, that the last song I hear as I’m finishing this post is Gungor’s Every Breath where the song ends with:
Here I am Lord, All I am Lord
Here I am Lord
I am yours…