While God called Anna to fast from something related to her ministry, God can also call us to fast in a way that simply helps us clear away the clutter and draw near. Fasting helps us realize our dependence on God for everything in life. It nurtures thankfulness, and often confronts us with our addiction to comfort. While God may call us to fast and pray for ministry needs, fasting can also be an excellent spiritual discipline to help us rest in God and rejoice that God loves us and cares for us, quite apart from what we do.
To Maintain a Sense of Self
We need to nurture an inner life that is not related to our ministry so we can move on to other jobs or into retirement and still have a sense of self apart from our ministry. Anna could lose her voice and get crippling arthritis in her hands, and she would still be able to pray. That statement would have been true for her in a theoretical way before her guitar fast, but now she knows it is true in a deep and powerful way.
To Hear God’s Voice
We need to hear God’s voice about our lives beyond our ministry. The spiritual discipline of discernment is deeply significant for those in Christian leadership. We need to grow in our ability to hear God’s guidance for directions for ministry, particularly in these rapidly changing times. But the discipline of discernment is also significant for areas of our lives beyond our ministry. Are there new ways I could show love to the people in my life? Is God calling me to care for my body or the environment differently than I am now? How is God calling me to use my time when I’m not working? In what ways is God calling me to grow in prayer?
To Deepen Nonprofessional Relationships
We need to nurture a devotional life that is not related to our ministry so that we can be spiritual partners with our spouses, other family members, and friends. The people in our lives who are not involved in professional ministry roles are engaged in various forms of service and ministry in the world. They rely on God for love, strength, and guidance for all the areas of their lives.
If our devotional lives are centered on our work, we run the risk of making it seem like our lives are in a different category from others’. This damages our relationships with those we love, and it also damages our perception of ourselves. All of us, first and foremost, are human beings created in God’s image, redeemed by Jesus Christ to be God’s beloved adopted children. Spiritual disciplines that help us draw near to God in pure affection enable us to remember our humanity and our solidarity with others in every walk of life.
The spiritual discipline of confession can be helpful here. When I am honest about how short I fall from God’s desires for me, and when I receive God’s forgiveness, I am restored to a position of beloved child. I am no different than any other person who needs and receives forgiveness. In that position, I can be a spiritual partner with those people in my life whose jobs don’t revolve around Christian ministry, like mine does.