Tuesday, April 7, 2015

fasting for justice

I had a thought the other night as I was praying before going to sleep.  I was praying about my day, where I need help and forgiveness and then for requests for all of us.  And just like that, a question popped in my head:  'What was your day like, God?'  And I started to imagine all the places where God saw brokenness.

I imagined helpless children, hungry, cold, scared, sad.  Children collecting garbage from dumps, inhaling paint thinner for a high, kids being abused- physically, mentally, sexually.  Kids that were no longer innocent and ignorant, kids that know evil unlike any knowledge I have of evil.

I also imagined mothers.  Mothers that were helpless to do anything for their children. Mothers who had lost their child(ren).  Mothers that are addicted.  That are mentally unstable.  That are too depressed to take care of themselves and their children.  Mothers that have remorse and guilt over an abortion.  And mothers that are abused- physically, mentally, sexually. Mothers that have had to go to extreme measures to take care of and provide for their family.

And then women, then fathers.  And then brokenness in families and in churches.  All of the injustices.  Everywhere.

It was and is completely humbling to me.  While I am asking for this and that concerning my nearly perfect little life, someone is crying out to God about something major.  Someone is doubtful that He exists and they are going through their pain alone.  Kids and adults that don't know anything about God and are therefore hopeless.  They are taken advantage of and are stuck in an identity of worthlessness.  It made me want to approach the throne for their injustices instead of my own selfish requests.  And it was humbling to me that God hears me when there is crying and screaming that fills God's ears every second of every day since nearly the beginning of time!  And there is the sound of silence that God hears and feels when someone gives up.  When someone barricades their self and their soul from ever getting harmed again.  And they give up on God.  God sees, hears, and feels this without relief and yet he listens to my prayers.  And he blesses me.  I have done nothing on my own to deserve this 'easy' life.  I could be that child- cold, hungry, alone, scared.  Or that mother- desperate, depressed, degraded.  And yet, I live with a sense of entitlement.  I sigh or grumble when the most minor thing happens.

I don't believe that my prayers have been exactly 'right' lately.  This is the 2nd time that I have felt conviction over this in a couple days time.  I was reminded about the sermon on the mount when Jesus talks about fasting.  And I opened up to Isaiah 58.  And in the margin by verses 3-5, I had scribbled from a sermon that 'self-interest is the foundation of counterfeit religion'.  Ouch!  And next to verses 6-7 was written, 'authentic Christianity is marked by radical love.'  Right!

The entire passage is about fasting.  Fasting isn't something I've ever taken seriously.  I admonish it and I've tried it but not without selfishly thinking that there might be some weight loss to gain from fasting and other vain ideas.  But in Matthew 6, Jesus says 'When you fast'.  Not if but when (it's an action word).  And when you do (back to Isaiah 58:6), to do it to loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke.  To share, provide, clothe, and not to turn away from your neighbor.

So after getting the urging twice, first in reading about true fasting and secondly in the question I was prompted to ask God, I think it's time I did some true fasting.  To urgently pray for those suffering injustices.  To put myself and my own problems aside and to plead with God to answer the prayers of true sufferers.

I didn't do anything to have been given this easy life.  That desperate, hopeless woman could be me right now.  It could be my kids getting abused, sex-trafficked, or living in the dump.  And it IS God's kids... millions of His children, everyday.

So I guess what I'm getting at is that I hope to ask God for justice just as often as I ask Him to keep us healthy.  And to ask Him for resources to the poor when I'm thanking Him for His blessings on us.  And when I'm in a bad mood and I snark at Him that I could use some patience, that He would reunite a parent with a child.  It looks like I need to do some authentic fasting and to take action: to share, provide, clothe, and reconcile.

And the third note I have in my Bible next to Isaiah 58:8-14 is that 'the result of authentic religion is the extreme favor of God.'