I Wanted Something Too Much, So I Tried Fasting.
In the 1995 groundbreaking digital animation film Toy Story, we got to see a different kind of Disney movie. Pixar, who created the film for Disney, broke the rules by using their own “secret story guidelines” to tell the story. These guidelines differed from the way Disney was used to making films – in fact, they were opposites.
The story guidelines for Disney films required that there be a villain. Pixar’s guidelines clearly stated “no villain”. So, what do you think happened in Toy Story – was there a villain or not?
The beloved hero in the film is the cowboy Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks. He’s the good-hearted sheriff who cares for all the other toys, and leads them through their various challenges. But one thing we learn about Woody quickly is that he’s flawed. Woody is both the hero, and in many ways the villain, of Toy Story.
How did such a kind-hearted rope-slinging cowboy become a villain? By wanting something too much.
Woody is a toy, living amongst other toys, all belonging to one owner – Andy. Andy chose Woody to be the only toy that gets to stay on Andy’s bed – he’s the most favored. All the other toys get put away in the toy box when playtime is over.
And so life goes on for the toys, until one day, Andy gets a brand new space hero action figure – Buzz Lightyear, and what happens? Buzz replaces Woody as the only toy on Andy’s bed – sending Woody to the dreaded toy box. Now Woody is no longer the favored toy. And he wants his place on Andy’s bed back. He wants it too much, and he does things to get it that he, and any of us, would regret. He goes from being the hero to the villain.
Am I the villain?
What about us? What happens when our place on the bed gets taken away? Do we stop being the good guy?
A few weeks ago, I displayed behavior in my kitchen that was unacceptable for a leader. In reaction to seeing orange juice spilled on the floor, I yelled and threw one of my children’s toys. It was behavior that cannot be described other than being violent.
Why did I display such an unreasonable reaction to some orange juice being spilled? Because this was just a trigger, there were already other things going on. What nobody else in the home seemed to understand was that this was my time in the morning for my coffee and newspaper. And dealing with the spilled orange juice would cause me to miss that time. Nobody knew that. That’s because it was a school holiday, and I usually have my coffee and newspaper after everyone goes to school. On that day, I didn’t have the luxury of solitude in the kitchen.
Now, my coffee and newspaper time is an important moment for me in my daily schedule. And when it got threatened, I became overly protective of it. My reaction was disproportionate. There is no reason anyone should get so mad over spilled orange juice. Nor a cup of coffee, a newspaper, or an important moment of quiet and solitude before a day of work.
I realized that I wanted my coffee and newspaper time too much. Just like good ol’ Woody became a monster when his place on the bed was threatened, I completely overreacted when my comfort was threatened.
Go for the low-hanging fruit
I wanted to never overreact like that again, I wanted to change. But what could I do? The desire for change quickly encounters resistance. The key was to look for a small change, thus small resistance. There’s a great term for this called “low-hanging fruit”. It’s the fruit that’s easiest to pick. The quickest results with the least effort. And it’s a totally acceptable thing to go for.
So what was the low-hanging fruit for me? To give up my coffee and newspaper time for the next two days. It’s a small change, but that’s the point of picking low-hanging fruit – at least you’re picking something. At least you’re encouraging some type of change.
Setting spiritual goals
One essential element of spiritual life is fasting. It is a denying of the flesh, and the soul, to give the spirit room to work. When we are in the pursuit of fulfilling our body’s desires, we are not always attuned to messages of a spiritual nature.
Life is a balance in which we attend to physical and spiritual needs on a regular basis. But a spiritual pursuit requires periodical times of fasting.
I’ve known this for quite awhile, but have had trouble working it into my lifestyle. A little over a year ago, my wife and I together took an online annual planning course from Michael Hyatt called “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever”. The point is to complete the course with a list of goals for your coming year. One of those goals for me was to get away and fast for a few days every quarter. I didn’t reach that goal – not even close.
Last December, we went through the course again – an updated version for 2016. And this time I was challenged to review limiting beliefs that I held onto, hindering me from reaching my goals. I came to realize that I had a belief that was limiting me from reaching my goal of fasting. My belief was:
I don’t have the strength to fast.
As instructed in the course, I replaced this limiting belief with a liberating truth:
A life of prayer and fasting is exactly for my lifestyle.
I then set a goal for this year: to fast for one day a month. A low-hanging fruit compared to the goal of getting away and fasting for a few days every quarter.
A spiritual workout
Whenever I fast, I become sad. I become aware of how much I look forward to daily comforts: meals, coffee, reading the newspaper, watching a TV show, drinking a glass of wine, etc. Fasting is a decision to deny myself of those comforts. But in doing so, it then causes me to take my mind off of the comforts, and I become mindful of other things. Spiritual things that are even more important than my comforts.
Many times we get into a mindset that says that if we fast, we’re going to have some amazing spiritual experience or breakthrough. Like one thing is conditional upon the other. Although that is certainly a possibility, I don’t think we should fast just to get something.
Fasting is like a muscle that needs to be developed, a spiritual workout. The more we do it, the more we’re able to do it when necessary. Positioning ourselves in a place of denying the flesh and the soul sets us up for spiritual growth, encounter, and breakthrough. Our job is the positioning – and I want to get better and better at it.
A spiritual champ
Sundar Singh was a well known teacher and evangelist from India in the early 20th century. He was devout. He spent many hours a day in prayer. He fasted often. But here’s the thing: he did these things before he had a spiritual encounter with truth. He was already pursuing the path of becoming a Hindu sadhu, or holy man.
Once he had a supernatural encounter with God, his faith completely changed. He was no longer a Hindu. But he continued to pray and fast. He had already developed his prayer and fasting muscles. As a result, he had a life of supernatural encounters, he learned things from God, and he even saw miracles happen.
I don’t want to want something too much
When Woody got knocked off the bed, he hurt the ones closest to him. I don’t want to be like Woody. Whether it be a place on the bed, some “me time” before the work day kicks in, or something else, I don’t want to want something too much. I want to develop the muscles that help me when my dear comforts are removed.
Is there something you wanted too much? Did you find a “low-hanging fruit” to help you with that? Let me know in the comments below!