"O sweet and blessed country that eager hearts expect! Jesu, in mercy bring us to that dear land of rest". I was reminded of them by Richard Foster's recollection of Charles Spurgeon's entreaty on fasting and prayer: "never has Heaven's gate stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer the central Glory". Both quotes share the same sense of being within touching distance of an eternal home with God. And in Spurgeon's case, underlined by much of Foster's chapter on Fasting, it is that discipline that brought him closest to that spiritual epiphany.
Yet, if fasting is so efficacious, how is it "not for everyone"? Foster points out that true fasting must be "God-initiated and God-ordained", yet some have not felt directed in this way, just as others have. A straw poll at home group this week showed a three-way spilt between those who had never fasted, had done so in the past or were fasting now. And the benefits were? "A slowing down. A receptiveness to God in a different, more relaxed, state" were reported.
All agreed that our eating habits, some would contend a modern obsession with food, can be a distraction from Godly living at best, at worst a different kind of idol. A golden calf from golden arches, you might say. Phones, tablets, media, work, relationships - also have the potential to distract us from God and yet all have the ability (well used) to help us in our Kingdom endeavours.
Imposing control over our will is the central but often seemingly impossible task of holy living. Overcoming sinful habits is one part of that. Another is those good and necessary things, like eating and drinking, the denial of which (for a time that is undamaging to our health) builds fortitude. In any case, God is needed as the reason, the power and the outcome.
In our weakened physical selves we might become - paradoxically - strengthened in our vision of God and his Kingdom - a golden Jerusalem, with milk and honey blest!