Family Style Fasting

Fasting

Josh practices fasting regularly. One day, Josh’s son told his dad he wanted to fast, too. He was 6 years old.

Little eyes are always watching and eager to follow the example set before them.

Fasting is an interesting discipline to explore with children. To be fully transparent, I haven’t done it a lot with children and until I heard Josh’s experience I had never thought about practicing it with them. Fasting is difficult for adults so it’ll be especially challenging for children who aren’t used to choosing self-sacrifice. For this reason, I believe fasting works best in the context of the home. So in preparation for this post, I asked several families to practice fasting. You can see what was asked of them here. No really, take a minute and read through this so the rest makes sense. I’ll wait.

(This document could be easily adapted to pass along to your families, too. Follow up questions are great for families to evaluate & reflect on their experience even if you don’t need their feedback to write a blog post!)

 

Here are some of the responses I received from 3 of the families I invited to practice fasting together:

Titus (age 5, who gave up playing on phones for 2 days) said, “It was easy peasy because I don’t actually like playing on phones. [I have it on good authority that’s not 100% accurate. :)]  I learned God is always with us and never away from us. Yes I would practice fasting again. I would tell someone who has never fasted before that it’s pretty hard. But you can practice and learn and mommy and daddy will teach you.”

Jenn, Titus’ mom, said, “It was really fun to fast together. When it got difficult or when one of us “forgot” or wanted to give up we were all there for each other! My kids were great accountability for when I wanted to cheat!  I learned how much more kids are capable of then I often realize. My husband and I value our kids seeing us do things to grow in our personal relationship with God but I had not ever considered what I can teach them and have them do to grow in knowing and loving God. My kids love learning about God in new and different ways. This was a new way for them to experience God. I was reminded how much God loves us. He’s loves us no matter what we DO for Him, but taking time to DO for Him always stirs our affections for him. Making space to know God more is hard but always sweet. Yes! We want to start fasting together more often. It was good for our souls and a great way to teach our kids about the beauty of spending time and turning our hearts to Jesus. To someone who has never tried fasting with their kids I would say: Don’t be afraid to try! I kept wanting to make excuses for why we couldn’t do it. We just moved and added a newborn. We did a short fast in light of those circumstances, but it was actually exactly what we all needed during that busy time.”

Summers are busy for everyone and when I asked these families to practice fasting I only gave them a 2 week window to fit this in. In light of summer craziness most of the families who originally agreed were not able to complete the fast in the short time frame. But sometimes there is value in the “failure.” I want to share with you one response from a family who had the best of intentions but were unable to complete the task:

I feel like such a disappointment, but the Jones family wasn’t able to do this justice this past week. Without the structure of schedule, it just fell by the wayside. However, even discussing it as a family and everyone pinpointing areas that they could fast from was a fruitful and honest conversation. It has certainly brought to mind and heart some things and habits that we each struggle with. We are definitely planning on doing this in the near future but with kids going one direction and another, it just didn’t happen as we intended. I am planning to have the whole family do a day long fast as soon as Hunter gets home from camp. I think we will all start with the same thing- probably technology (TV, games, phones, etc) and see how we do. Then, we will make a plan for a longer and more personalized fast in the near future. So sorry to not have results to share…except that even the conversation it brought about was really beneficial for our family.

I call that a win. And a great start to exploring fasting as a family.

The Packer Family (mom, dad, & kids ages 7, 5 & 2) chose to fast from technology for 3 days. Our fast was primarily focused on iPads and cell phones (our 3 kids each have an iPad & Holly & I have smart phones).
We didn’t commit to turn everything off. We committed to “tech only what love requires.” Following Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, we didn’t want to draw attention to our fast, so if we were texted, we would respond in a way that love required, so as not to draw attention to our fast. We thought a response like, “Why would you text us as we are trying to focus on the Lord during our technology fast” might not be best. But Holly, who usually texts throughout her days, sent a message to several friends/family before the fast letting them know she wouldn’t be as reachable as normal.
Our family is addicted to technology. This was an opportunity to call our idol to attention and direct our attention to God. 
To be honest, it was an utter failure. Our kids succeeded. My wife did well. But this weekend was the single hardest and unexpected pastoral weekend in my 8 years of full-time ministry. [Dad is a Senior Pastor.] It wasn’t something I could help. It was my job to step up and help a family in crisis. I was honored to step up, but I had to break my fast. And I struggled with hiding it from my kids and then trying to explain it to them after they noticed my behavior. 
I’m still sorting through the experience. Was it a failure? Should I have forsaken the church in order to keep my commitment to “tech only what love requires”? Or did love require my breaking of the fast? 
I anticipate we’ll try it again. But I noticed that so much of my life depends on my phone. How else would I choose the best route from my house to the Texas Ranger game with my son on Friday afternoon during rush hour without my Google Maps App? How do I remember calendar events when my recording of those events occurs on my iCal App? 
My phone is a gift, but if I am too tied to this gift that I cannot be attentive to my relationship with God, something must change. 
Idols are rarely bad things. If they were bad things, we wouldn’t be tempted to idolize them and center our lives around them.
No. Idols are good things. But they are good things that we give ultimate value to. It’s not a bad thing to have a phone, save money in a savings account, or root for your favorite college football team on a Saturday afternoon. But when those things take the place of God as the ultimate things in our lives, we begin to worship created things over the Creator. 
And that’s what fasting does for us. It forces us to come to terms with the idols in our lives.

How have you seen children practice fasting? How is God stirring in you a desire to practice fasting with the children in your life?

 

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