Exposure and Surrender
No wonder the Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit the Wild Goose; to follow him is to invariably be led on an adventure we would mostly never choose on our own.
Recently, he took a wild, maddening turn in front of me through a great friend’s trip to the ER (thank you, Jon). In the aftermath, we were praying for God’s healing to come to Jon’s body through an intense fast/cleanse diet the doctors were requiring of him. In the middle of the prayer, the Holy Spirit snuck up on me and whispered, I want you to engage the same cleanse/fast for 21 days. I was thrown off. It was unlooked for. Unwanted. And it’s worth mentioning that fasting is a spiritual discipline that has never worked for me.
So it began. For 21 days, the plan was to eliminate every known food allergen from my diet, along with all alcohol and caffeine. You name it, it’s now taboo for me. No beer, no sugar, no beer, no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, no beer, no soy, no peanuts, no eggs, no citrus, no coffee, no beer… You get the picture.
It’s basically like a vacation for the digestive system. And as I contemplated saying yes to the Holy Spirit, it occurred to me that after 36 years of abusing my digestive system with chicken wings, nachos, and unnameable ingredients listed on labels I’ve insistently ignored, it was time to give it a rest. After all, I thought that he was just after a cleanse, kind of a spring cleaning.
Yet as I headed into it, I felt a quiet impression that the Holy Spirit was after something even deeper and more comprehensive than my digestive health.
And was he ever. He was after my heart.
Speaking of the “cleanse,” my buddy’s wife (who joined us in this divine experiment) put brilliant words to the erratic bundle of emotional responses we each experienced during the first week (thank you, Amy!):
- Day 1: “This is awesome. Why doesn’t everyone do this? It’s so easy and I love vegetables.” Later in the evening, at the movie we went to for my husband’s birthday (I LOVE movies almost as much as food) and I always, always, get popcorn and a Coke): “I hate this stupid diet! Why do we need to be healthy anyway? I just want a huge tub of buttery popcorn and a Coke!” I enjoyed the movie, but struggled with being distracted and sulked a lot of the time.
- Day 2: “This diet isn’t so hard. I’m so glad I’m doing this.” (We went for a hike and then my husband cooked curry for me.)
- Day 3: This is the day I got cocky and was all… “I got this. I am disgusted by those other humans out there who don’t choose to do something like this for their health.”
- Day 4: “This is the dumbest thing ever. I HATE this @$@#&*! diet. I will stay faithful to it, but I REFUSE to be happy about it.” This is when I started having detox symptoms, as my body started dumping all the toxins I normally eat out of my system. My kidneys hurt, I had sciatic pain, headaches, blah.
- Day 5, 6, 7: see day 4 =)
As Amy articulated so well, the first week was a rollercoaster of emotions. And for me, the Holy Spirit used this first week to reveal my utter dependence on food and alcohol for comfort and medication, pleasure and mood-control. He revealed with so much kindness my use of caffeine to “cheat” the system, using it to borrow energy from tomorrow and pay a serious interest rate in the process. And so much more…
This revelation was exposing, humiliating… and saving.
In his teaching on fasting, a mentor Mike Bickle remarks that one of the most excruciating realities of fasting is that it reveals at first how little intimacy and substantial daily relationship we actually have with God.
“When all the crutches are taken away, you realize that what you and God have at this point just isn’t all that great… yet.”
And so it begins.
But something else has happened. By day three, my energy grew enormously. In the evenings I’ve been forcing myself to put down the book, leave the fireplace, and get to bed, even though I don’t feel tired. I still don’t believe it. “I’m not an evening person.” That’s what I always believed. “It’s just my drivenness that leads to exhaustion.” Maybe in part, but not in this case.
Cherie still catches me staring at the beer in the fridge—sometimes just hoping for some osmosis or supernatural impartation. But each day I do it more loosely; each day I feel myself surrender just a little more into the possibility that God desires to be my food and my drink, to be my comfort and the lifter of my mood. I have a long way to go, but I am keenly aware that I am in the middle of one of the holiest seasons of my life so far.
And I thought it was just a “cleanse.”
Where is the Holy Spirit inviting you to “detox,” “cleanse,” or fast? Take a moment to ask him to reveal any false comforters that he longs to replace with himself.
If he asked, would you hear him?
If you heard him, would you do it?
Jesus, come. I am desperate. I am raw. I am exposed. I need you. I am hungry. I am thirsty. I am lonely. I am tired. I am uncomfortable. I am restless. I am in need. Come, beautiful, kind God. Come. I need more of you, or I am not going to make it. Come.