As promised, I’m taking you along with me as I journey through Jen Hatmaker’s 7. I’ve accomplished my first week–a food fast, and I ‘m back with a Q & A style post to report on how it went. Please feel free to ask additional questions in the comments.
What did your fast look like?
Although there are several variations of the fast listed in the book, Jeff and I chose to eat only seven foods for seven days. Our fast began at 6pm on a Friday and ended at 6pm the following Friday. We did not make our children participate, though they were subject to eating the same meal that he and I ate for dinner each night. They also fasted from dessert. We were able to choose any seven foods that we wanted, but in the interest of our health, we selected seven whole foods. We opted to eat: dry black beans* (cooked), organic quinoa*, almonds*, organic spinach*, organic apples, organic eggs and pepper jack cheese. The foods marked with an asterik are superfoods that pack a solid nutritional punch. You’ll notice that we did not include any meats. We omitted meat mainly because the black beans and almonds served as our protein source, but also because it would have been very costly to lean so heavily on organic chicken for an entire week. In addition to fasting from all but those seven foods, we committed to spending only half of our weekly grocery budget for the duration of the fast and donating the savings to our sponsored Compassion children in Rwanda. During the fast, we drank only water and used olive oil, salt and pepper very conservatively. Beyond those items, we did not use any seasonings, condiments or flavorings. You can imagine, then, why we included pepper jack cheese on our list; we needed a little bit of flavor!
It was indeed a very challenging fast. We are foodies. Existing on seven simple and fairly flavorless foods for seven whole days was difficult for us. It completely removed us from our comfort zones. Going in to the fast, we anticipated that we would eat the same three meals each day: a spinach and cheese omelet for breakfast, an apple with ground almonds (almond butter) for lunch and a quinoa and black bean bowl with wilted spinach and cheese for dinner. It didn’t take us long, though, to grow tired of the monotony. We wound up getting creative with our options. Jeff found that he preferred spinach, apple and water smoothies for breakfast. I ate a dry spinach salad for lunch a couple of times. Dinner was the most difficult meal of the day. The quinoa/spinach bowls only lasted four days. After that, I made quinoa/black bean patties one night (which were terrible), a quinoa/black bean scramble the next, and on the last night we all managed to hold down a dry spinach salad. My stomach growled nearly the entire time because I opted for hunger over forcing down the same flavorless foods.
Was it hard, spiritually?
Yes. The night before the fast was to begin, I threw somewhat of a tantrum. I really didn’t want to give up my wine or my sweets, but when I focused my eyes on the cross and what had been done there for me, I was humbled and resigned. By day two, I was frustrated and grumpy and confused as to how my meals get in the way of my pursuit of Christ. Several phrases in the book were problematic for me. On page 22, Hatmaker writes, ” He (God) cannot stand empty obedience.” I struggled with that thought for several days because though I committed to the fast with a heart that yearned for God’s movement in my life, I definitely had grumbly moments in which I wanted nothing more than a lick of buttercream frosting. On page 26, Hatmaker writes, “Fasting for the wrong reasons is just narcissistic.” I feared that my grumbling equated to a wrong heart. In the end, I think I came to reason that because I approached the fast with a humble, listening heart, my grumbling wasn’t narcissistic. Much like Abraham when he prepared Isaac as a sacrifice, I didn’t understand how God would use the fast to grow me, but I trusted that he would. I sought Him in the empty space.
Did God show up?
Of course He did. Early in the fast, I found myself praying far more often than I normally would. With every grumble of my tummy, I was reminded to rely fully on my God when my earthly comforts escaped me. During my nightly prayer time, I experienced some very intense communion during which it became abundantly clear to me that God so ultimately and intimately sustains me.
So it was all unicorns and rainbows then?
Hardly. When it was time for me to start wilting the &%#@(& spinach on day five, I quite literally curled into the fetal position on the floor of my closet and cried. I simply couldn’t stomach the thought of taking a single bite more of wilted spincach. Or quinoa. Or any of my other measly choices.
Did anything about the experience surprise you?
Yes. In the interest of transparency, I will admit to some ugly, carnal feelings. Without sharing details, I will say that some members of my study group opted for a less strict variation of the seven foods fast. Though I was completely in the wrong, I couldn’t gain control of the bitter feelings I had towards those who were still enjoying some of their sustenance comforts while I was knee-deep in quinoa. In the book, Hatmaker is clear to point out that this is not “some angry, cynical, holier-than-thou experiment to feel superior to others.” Yet, there I was comparing my fast to theirs and feeling angry that I was all-in while others were taking a different route. By the end of day four, I had repented of those feelings and I found that God was quick to wipe them away, but I’m surprised (and saddened) that they ever existed in the first place.
Would you do it again?
I don’t plan on doing another food fast anytime soon. That’s not to say that I’ve ruled it out. I know that fasts are a tool and that the Bible gives several examples of fasts being used in times of crisis, repentance, mourning and worship. In my experience, they do present a means of renewed reliance on God. If God calls me to fast, I will do it again. If I find my circumstances or situation cluttered and cloudy, I might use fasting as a cleaning tool. Unless there was a pressing command to fast for seven days again, I don’t think I would. By day seven, I found myself relying less on God and more on the habit of not eating. It became a will thing, as opposed to a God thing. I think that, for me, a shorter and more traditional fast might be a more effective tool in my spiritual arsenal.
What happens next?
We fast from clothes. More details on that next week.