On Fasting and Firm Footings

PJ and I have been participating in a Sugar Fast since the beginning of January. Not because we particularly had huge issues with sugar…well, actually the first couple of weeks were pretty brutal for me and my sweet tooth. It’s not easy to say no to cookies and cake and pie and ice cream and chocolate. And my morning coffee habit is not nearly as enjoyable without sweetener, but that “habit” must persist, sweetened or not. (Perhaps caffeine would be something to address in a future fast.) Anyway, we felt called to fast at the start of 2020, and this was the book and the opportunity that God brought across our path. So we went with it, applying the spiritual principles we discovered to all sorts of things, not just sugar. It’s been a time of peeling back layers in our lives and making sure we have our feet solidly planted on the Rock of Christ.

Sometimes through the course of our lives we find that we’ve been shakily standing on a rock other than Christ. Something starts to rumble under us, and we realize the rock we’ve chosen is beginning to split. Maybe that thing we have derived our identity from suddenly stops defining us; or the safe place we have always run to for acceptance begins to bar its doors to us; or maybe a promised spring of love that our thirsty souls have depended on starts to run dry. And we suddenly realize we’re not on the right rock! Thankfully, God can lift us off our shaky ground and plant our feet firmly in Him. Only on the Rock of Christ do we learn our true name. Only on the Rock of Christ does the door of acceptance always swing wide and gracious on its hinges. Only on the Rock of Christ can we soak our needy selves in waves of never-ending love. How I want to learn to live my life lying low on that Rock!

I read a poem this morning by Francis Quarles, a 17th century metaphysical poet. He likened his heart to the needle of a compass and God to true north. I love the way he pictures that needle quivering and dodging every which way, looking for the place it can finally be at rest. All those things that promise pleasure or fulfillment or security eventually show themselves for the “empty toys” they are…for the “empty calories” they are. They’re not strong enough to sustain a life. The cracks in a foundation like that will eventually show themselves, and what we choose in that moment is critical. If we refuse to renounce those empty fillers, we’ll eventually be swept away when the rains come down and the floods come up. But if our hearts can settle on the true north of the Lord our God and our feet can stand firmly on the Rock of Ages, we will find all that our hungering hearts need!

“Like to the Arctic Needle” (stanzas 1, 2, & 5)
by Francis Quarles (1592-1644)

Like to the arctic needle, that doth guide
The wand’ring shade by his magnetic pow’r,
And leaves his silken gnomon to decide
The question of the controverted hour,
First frantics up and down from side to side,
And restless beats his crystal’d iv’ry case,
With vain impatience jets from place to place,
And seeks the bosom of his frozen bride;
At length he slacks his motion, and doth rest
His trembling point at his bright pole’s beloved breast.

E’en so my soul, being hurried here and there,
By ev’ry object that presents delight,
Fain would be settled, but she knows not where;
She likes at morning what she loathes at night:
She bows to honour; then she lends an ear
To that sweet swan-like voice of dying pleasure,
Then tumbles in the scatter’d heaps of treasure;
Now flatter’d with false hope, now foil’d with fear.
Thus finding all the world’s delight to be
But empty toys, good God, she points alone to thee…

Eternal God! O thou that only art
The sacred fountain of eternal light,
And blessed loadstone of my better part,
O thou, my heart’s desire, my soul’s delight!
Reflect upon my soul, and touch my heart,
And then my heart shall prize no good above thee;
And then my soul shall know thee; knowing, love thee;
And then my trembling thoughts shall never start
From thy commands, or swerve the least degree,
Or once presume to move, but as they move in thee.

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