Seattle has its own smaller version of the Statue of Liberty. She gazes over Puget Sound, standing tall in a park that swarms with joggers and parents pushing strollers. From the rear she looks just like the statue in New York City with flowing robes, a torch in her hand, and a crown with spikes. Her face, however, is totally different. While Lady Liberty in New York has a stern and austere expression, Seattle's near replica has a soft, almost fleshy face. She looks like an indulgent grandmother.
I've always loved the "real" Statue of Liberty, including her stern expression. Standing in New York harbor as a symbol of welcome to those in need, Lady Liberty's face reminds me that freedom is costly, requiring sacrifice, discipline and commitment.
We live in a culture obsessed with freedom and liberty, but our version of liberty has become indulgent and soft, like the face on Seattle's statue. We forget that freedom comes at a price; we act as if liberty means the right to be self-absorbed and self-focused.
While we skim from one enticing and absorbing topic to another— beauty aids and sex techniques, cell-phone calling plans and personal organizers, exercise shoes and kitchen remodels—we barely notice that these thoughts take the place of other concerns we value more highly. We so easily become enslaved to things that ultimately have little meaning.
Here's the rub: we inhabit a culture obsessed with liberty, but we habituate ourselves into bondage. We've forgotten what lack feels like and what liberty tastes like.
Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the power of sin and death so we can live in freedom. Jesus said to his disciples, "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). The apostle Paul echoed that wonderful truth: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom 8:2). How can we experience more of that liberty in our everyday lives?
Fasting, an ancient practice, encourages us to grow in true freedom. In fasting, God invites us to experience the kind of freedom that is rooted in healthy discipline and meaningful sacrifice, the kind of freedom that reflects the awesome reality that we have been freed from sin and death. Fasting offers the opportunity to step back from our culture and cross the doorway into God's presence. Fasting ushers us into a reflective place where we can listen to God and pray wholeheartedly for things that really matter.
Christians today are embracing fasting in a variety of forms. This discipline addresses some of the challenges of trying to live faithfully in a frantic and materialistic consumer culture. Fasting today includes abstaining from food, just like Christians did centuries ago, but also from news media, entertainment, information, shopping, email and the Internet, and other aspects of daily life.
I was praying for the thousandth time about an obstacle a friend had been facing for almost two years—something that should have been resolved much more quickly. As I was praying, the idea came into my mind that perhaps we should fast together as we prayed for the problem. My friend agreed, and we set a date for a one-day fast.
I prayed about how to fast on that day. As I looked at my schedule, I found I had three consecutive appointments that would require a total of four car trips ranging from 15 to 30 minutes each. When I drive I always play music, turned up loud. I decided to fast from music on those four car rides, expecting that the silence would remind me to pray. So on that pleasant sunny day I set out on my first expedition with the car windows open. I noticed something surprising right away: my muffler was beginning to go out! I hadn't noticed it earlier because of the music I always play. I wondered what else I might be missing in my life because I do so many things the same way, day after day.