The Daniel Fast is stupid.
I know – we don’t criticize a fast being observed by thousands of Christians, but I am really annoyed.
In fact, the Daniel Fast has grown into such a sudden global phenomenon, it might be dangerous to voice my criticism. That Daniel story has been happily hanging around Sunday School for decades. Why did some some recent theological mastermind have to mess that up by setting into motion this particular fast? The stupid thing is now trending with pathetic recipes and blog posts, and devotionals, and entire churches and denominations advocating the Daniel Fast.
It is like Christians across the world suddenly read the same book.
Oh, yeah, well, I guess we did.
And, I understand that with this fast, we can embrace an opportunity to grow closer to God.
We imitate Daniel’s example of putting God first, standing against societal evils, keeping oneself pure, valuing prayer.
I know. I get it. Food for the soul.
Because, if anybody has the resources to crush slavery, to end death, to bring peace into our lives and into our world, certainly it is God. We celebrate his resurrection, his power over sin, his victory over death. We have this moment in our human framework when Jesus just walked right through Hell’s doorway and back into our linear timeline.
God has power over death. His death. Our death. The story of Lazarus teaches us that eternal truth.
‘Lazarus, come forth,‘
And, everybody who was dead in their sin understands that their name is Lazarus.
My name is Lazarus.
Your name is Lazarus.
Honestly, I don’t need a fast to see that.
I like the Lazarus story and the Daniel story. The good guys win in spite of unbeatable circumstances. Can’t we just leave a good story alone?
No. We have to pick at it. We have to fast about it. We have to preach it. And then, the next words of Jesus open up a whole new issue in this otherwise satisfying tale. I have been so thrilled with the power-Jesus that launches Lazarus through the death-tomb doorway that the next command surprises me.
‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go. (NIV)
Unbind him, and let him go. (NASB)
Loose him, and let him go. (HCSB)
Jesus just brought a man back to life, but wait, we have a technical difficulty that inhibits our celebration? Really? We have a stone-cold dead guy walking around and we are focused on a pressing clothing problem?
Interestingly, when the Marys went to the tomb on Easter morning to see a dead Jesus, the stone was rolled away and his body was missing, and that preoccupation with grave clothes interrupts the story again – somebody adds, ‘and the grave clothes were still there.’
So, when Lazarus walked back into life, somebody had to help him roll out of those stinking grave clothes.
When Jesus came back to life, he took off his grave clothes and left them behind.
And why do we care about this?
With all of this obvious power over the life and the death cycles of our human reality, why is our story-telling God obsessing over this mundane detail?
If the moral of our story is that God has victory over death, who cares about clothes?
The mom who packs. The dad who carries. The traveller who pays for extra weight.
Take it from someone who has packed my bag plus 4 over the last decade for more trips that I can possibly count, those clothes weigh a lot. That underwear and sweater quickly turn into ‘Daddy can you carry this heavy suitcase for me?’
From dragging suitcases through airports and train stations at ridiculous hours of the morning, from pulling suitcases down from the van topper when the rain is falling and the ice is thickening, this is one thing that I know well. Clothes are heavy when you are just trying to make it to the next station or through the next second.
To be honest, I think I spend much of my time dragging rags of shame around in a dusty little death dance.
Those areas of my life that I want to control, to hide, to protect.
Maybe that is part of what this stupid Daniel Fast is all about.
Twenty-one days of pulling off the layers of death that bind. Twenty-one days of discovering how God truly breathes life into these shells of flesh and bone. Twenty-one days to give God the stinking, festering folds of our guilt and our shame and our greed, and our lust, and our self-centered addictions.
I don’t like trending things, unless it is my own blog post.
I don’t like fasting when it becomes some kind of a Christian bucket list.
I don’t like the discomfort of hunger pains.
But, I need to dance more than I need to eat pizza. I need to know true life and to celebrate it free of the rags that bind.
May God fill us with his spirit, set us free from death, and launch us into a world dying to live.