The Spiritual Failings of an ‘Emerging Leader’ 1 | Failing to Fast

At a lecture given by a world-renowned and very high-brow artist, a friend asked in the Q&A afterwards "It’s been great hearing about your work, could you outline some of your failings." The guy was floored. But his answer gave more insight into his work than 3 hours of talks about his great work ever could. Failure is far more interesting than success. And far more important too. A corrective to the spun-sugar culture that inflates importance.

So in the spirit of deflation, here’s the first in what could be a huge series on failings: fasting.

BurgerI think fasting is great. It’s healthy, it brings focus, it shows appetites who’s boss and our Muslim cousins have a great rhythm of it. I’ve done it on and off for a while. Mostly off recently, truth be told.

My first attempt was a wonderful failure. I’d eaten a healthy dinner the night before in preparation, and had a late-night snack too. Woke up, had a glass or two of water, and brushed my teeth vigorously, careful not to swallow, lest an nourishment might slip down. Richard Foster, author of the wonderful Celebration of Discipline, warned of bad breath during fasts, so I really scrubbed hard.

Off I went on my bike, feeling holy as hell. Did a morning’s work at the church I was employed by. Which meant making a bunch of stuff up to make it look like I was worth employing. Made my excuses over lunch – very carefully. Mustn’t let the right know what the left was doing, etc. And, feeling totally ravenous, cycled home.

I’d already made the spiritual sacrifice not to see my girlfriend of the time… and decided I would cap a day of leaping whole rows forward in the Kingdom by getting a bus (I thought I’d drop off the bike if I’d tried to cycle it) back up to church for a prayer meeting.

The Number 28 runs up the North End Road in Fulham. I’ve no idea what it’s like now, but it was terribly unreliable then. So I waited at the bus stop. And waited. And all I could think about was burgers. My whole brain just zoned in on this 4-pack of quarter-pounders in the freezer and sliced cheese and ketchup and a loaf of white bread. I think I actually drooled onto the pavement.

I prayed for deliverance, for a bus to come, or some sign.

But then thought ‘sod it’, turned and went home and, choffing raw bread by the handful while I made them, ate probably the best burgers I have ever tasted. Someone asked me the next day why I hadn’t been at the meeting. I lied. What a great day 😉

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3 responses to “The Spiritual Failings of an ‘Emerging Leader’ 1 | Failing to Fast”

  1. Great stuff Kester – this made my morning!!

  2. Very honest!
    I too have had those days when I pledged to fast and by lunch time I am theologically justifying the need to eat and how grumpy I am getting is not going to help me, my wife or my kids.
    I am often talking about training and not trying – John Ortberg in Life worth Living – to my team and congregation. How setting goals to fast all day are unrealistic and setting yourself up for disaster. Similarly with prayer and scripture reading, in fact most spiritual habits. Training starts with small obtainable and repeatable goals.
    In contrast to that my last encounter with fasting was more than a 60 hour fast with no build up or training. This was in response to my wife going on a 3 day selection conference for ordiantion traning. My refelction was that my love and hope for my wife to flourish in her dreams was more than I had had for anything that I had previously failed at fasting for. And that it blows my training rather than trying theory…

  3. I too believe in the power of self afacement…sometimes my friends will say: “why do you have to say that” after I’ve mentioned, I don’t know, how selfish I am or how enormous my ego can be to which I respond “because it’s true”. It’s not self-loathing, or false humility, it’s just reality.