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Why I Fasted Yesterday

by Jessawhy

It’s been more than 3 years since I fasted. I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for so long, I’d forgotten what it felt like to be really hungry, tired, and grumpy then after eating, to get the intense headache. It’s really not my favorite part of Mormon worship.

But, I did it because I wanted to show God I am willing to do hard things if it will help my relationship with the Divine.

Recently my relationship with the church has really suffered. So many aspects of church culture and practice make me crazy and I no longer believe that the church is capital T, True. I do think the church is good, and helps a lot of people, but I don’t think that God wants everyone to be Mormon, or that people who drink coffee are on their way to hell.

I am getting comfortable in my new relationship with the church, taking the good and leaving the bad. It’s my church, too, and I will find ways to make it positive.

However, my relationship with God has also changed. Until recently, I haven’t really understood how to separate my understanding of God from the church. Does God still love me?

I’ve been asking to feel God’s love, and it hasn’t happened on my knees. Perhaps it’s a question of faith. Divine intervention seems like such a great idea, but in practice, it’s so difficult. How can God heal the child next door, but allow genocide in Rawanda? I am in no way qualified to discuss theodicy, but these questions have changed my faith in a big way. My concept of God’s power and role in our lives is constantly changing, which makes my prayers at best, wishes, and at worst, totally usesless.

After dinner with a friend who mentioned that she’s been trying to read her scriptures, I went home and opened mine. Since my quest is to feel God’s love, I went searching for Nephi’s vision (1 N 11:16-17) where the angel asks him, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” and Nephi answers, ” I know that he loveth his children: nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”

While searching for this passage, I came across other verses that spoke to me.  In Nephi chapter 15, Nephi is talking to his brothers, Laman and Lemuel, who like me right now, don’t have faith in visions, or God’s intervention. They still want answers, but instead of asking God, they ask Nephi.

In v 8 Nephi asks, “Have ye inquired of the Lord? They reply in v 9, “We have not, for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”

Yep, that’s what I would have said. That’s what I say to myself a lot.

Then in v 10-11:

“How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts? Do you not remember the things which the Lord hath said?- If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.”

Even though I didn’t feel like God was answering my prayers, he spoke to me through the scriptures.

The thought came into my mind, “God has always spoken to me through the scriptures.” Not just the words that I read, but my inner dialogue changes, becoming clearer and more hopeful when I read (assuming I can block out the patricarchal framework).

Perhaps this seems small and silly, but for me, it was an answer. A little message from God. And, it was enough.

Right now, I think God wants me to focus on being a good person, keeping the commandments, and softening my heart. My concerns with the church aren’t going away, but I think my relationship with God will improve if I change my focus from what I don’t like to how to be a better person.

So, that’s why I fasted on Sunday. I want to mend my relationship with God, and I think fasting is one way I show God that I’m willing to sacrifice to do that.

Jessawhy

Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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  1. Markir says:

    This is beautiful. I stopped nursing yesterday, so I think I will take this Sunday as an opportunity to try to repair my relationship with God in many of the ways you suggested. Thank you.

  2. Saral says:

    Jessawhy,

    Thank you for this thoughtful and moving post. I related to it so much. Like you, fasting has always been one of my least favorite aspects of my religion. Yet, for some reason, when I do it earnestly (e.g., with sincere prayer and a very specific purpose), it has usually brought results in some way- maybe because it is such a sacrifice for me and God sees that. I don’t know. I’m now four months pregnant and I haven’t even done the usual once a month fast in awhile now. I won’t be able to return to fasting to feel closer to God at any time in the near future, but your post did inspire me to think of other ways to strengthen my relationship with the Divine.

    Your post also spoke to me because I have also been trying to figure out exactly what I feel about the Church lately. Like you, I still have the commitment to my faith and belief in much of it, but I just don’t see everything in as black-and-white terms as I used to. I also feel
    as if my prayers, which I used to think were so meaningful and frequently answered are now exercises that usually don’t make me feel that much better or any more certain about the things I pray about. Yet, even though answers come less often now, they seem more meaningful when I do get them.

    It’s just part of my developmental journey I suppose. I do have hope that I’ll be able to come out the other side of this and feel once again more secure in my relationship with God. Until then, it’s so helpful to relate to others out there who are on similar journeys. Thank you.

  3. D'Arcy says:

    J–thank you for this post. You know much of my journey with the church this year, doubts, worries, a complete break from it, and now a reevaluation. I am still not sure where I stand, but I keep telling God if he can just show me love and patience, and give me a little peace about a few things that I can know, then I will keep plugging away at all I don’t know.

    People keep telling me I can’t know all the answers and I know that, but I do believe I can feel a bit more peace about NOT knowing than I have lately. Fasting does always seem to clear my head, and I really haven’t done anything like that for almost a year now. It might be good to give it a try.

    Thanks.

  4. Howard says:

    Great post Jessaway. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  5. Jessawhy says:

    Markir,
    I have bittersweet feelings when I stop nursing. I wish you the best as you work on your relationship with God, whether or not that involves fasting, prayer, or something else entirely. Thanks for your comment.

    Saral,
    I’m glad you can relate to my post. I feel very vulnerable when I post my personal experiences with God and revelation. So I am glad that you can relate as you work through your feelings and thoughts regarding God and the church. After so much time in the church, it is so strange to see color instead of only black and white. It’s almost like breaking out of a cocoon.
    I hope you find peace in your journey. Thanks for your comment.

    D’Arcy,
    Thanks for your comments. Looking back, I do think that I had specific ways that I felt God’s presence. But for the last few years, I haven’t been doing those things, thinking that they wouldn’t work, so I’m glad to know that something does.
    Let me know if fasting works for you. Of course I wish you all the best on your search for peace.

    Howard,
    Thank you.

  6. micah says:

    Sometimes the scriptures are a “seer stone,” in that we don’t necessarily get our answers from the words we read. But the answers are there, nonetheless.

  7. softening my heart

    That is always a key step towards finding God again.

  8. suzy says:

    I found that as the church became less important (though I am fully “active”) God became more important; sometimes I almost feel that I was making an idol of the church organization–

    for what it’s worth–

    not that I don’t value the church, but it was cultural things that bothered me, too–

    and the scriptures have been my “link”

  9. Kaimi says:

    Thanks for this post, Jess. In a lot of ways, as you know, your thoughts mirror my own on the church. It’s helpful for me to see how you address these issues.

    I’m not sure where all the answers are, either. But I also find that sometimes the Divine speaks to me, through the scriptures. And there’s a long history of using fasting to approach that Divine — it’s not the magic pill that it often gets portrayed as, but I think it can be a good way to focus our energies in ways that we might not otherwise see.

    So thanks for this, Jess. I liked it.

  10. EmilyCC says:

    Oh, I love a little spiritual application of 1 Nephi (maybe because I always start my BoM reading here, I just don’t find a lot that “speaks” to me).

    Beautiful post, Jess!

  11. Jessawhy says:

    Micah,
    Well said. I find that I read something, but the answer is really in my mind, the thoughts that come while reading.

    Stephen M,
    Yes, a soft heart is better for all of us, isn’t it?

    Suzy,
    Hmm, making an idol out of the church. I’d never thought about it that way, but I probably was, too. And I can see that a lot of people do that even now. Very fascinating way of looking at it.

    Kaimi,
    Thanks for your thoughts. When I fasted this time, I focused not so much on asking for divine intervention, but on asking for understanding regarding events out of my control. Peace with difficulties I cannot change. No, I don’t have the answers, but I do think that God can help me with that.

    EmilyCC,
    I’m laughing a little because I didn’t think Nephi was your all time favorite Book of Mormon character. I actually thought of you while writing the post. 🙂
    But, I guess we each have a little bit that speaks to us.
    Today I read about Abigail in the OT, and how she is a type of Christ when she intercedes between David who wanted to kill her husband Nabal (and everyone that pisseth on a wall, great phrase, isn’t it?).
    I know you love the OT, so I thought you might like a reference to that passage.

  12. Thomas Parkin says:

    Awesome. Huzzah to Jessawhy.

    Certainly not “small and silly.”

    Sometimes I think we forget that the covenants we make are not with the Church, they are with God. There needs no church, no priesthood, to stand between us and God. The church is _necessary_ to safeguard and administer the ordinances, and in addition gives us chances to grow by dealing with baffling people. In the meantime, we need as many experiences like yours that we can get. And there isn’t a cap put on that number, either.

    ~

  13. G says:

    thank you for sharing this beautiful account.
    I’m trying to remember who said this (I think it may have been sara miles), something to the effect of: “The word of God is what his people hear in their hearts when the bible is read”
    ack, I totally slaughtered that, but it’s the general idea: there are these words on the page that are set in stone (sort of) but when you read them you get a message in your heart, the REAL message, so to speak. God’s voice to you.
    I wish you the best of luck with this journey, and with making peace with God.

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