My mutiny :: a seven foods for seven days fast

sevenAs promised, I’m taking you along with me as I journey through Jen Hatmaker’s 7.  I’ve accomplished my first week–a food fast, and I ‘m back with a Q & A style post to report on how it went.  Please feel free to ask additional questions in the comments.

What did your fast look like?

Although there are several variations of the fast listed in the book, Jeff and I chose to eat only seven foods for seven days.  Our fast began at 6pm on a Friday and ended at 6pm the following Friday.  We did not make our children participate, though they were subject to eating the same meal that he and I ate for dinner each night.  They also fasted from dessert.  We were able to choose any seven foods that we wanted, but in the interest of our health, we selected seven whole foods.  We opted to eat: dry black beans* (cooked), organic quinoa*, almonds*,  organic spinach*, organic apples, organic eggs and pepper jack cheese.  The foods marked with an asterik are superfoods that pack a solid nutritional punch.  You’ll notice that we did not include any meats.  We omitted meat mainly because the black beans and almonds served as our protein source, but also because it would have been very costly to lean so heavily on organic chicken for an entire week.  In addition to fasting from all but those seven foods, we committed to spending only half of our weekly grocery budget for the duration of the fast and donating the savings to our sponsored Compassion children in Rwanda.  During the fast, we drank only water and used olive oil, salt and pepper very conservatively.  Beyond those items, we did not use any seasonings, condiments or flavorings.  You can imagine, then, why we included pepper jack cheese on our list; we needed a little bit of flavor!

7foods-1Was it hard, physically?

It was indeed a very challenging fast.  We are foodies.  Existing on seven simple and fairly flavorless foods for seven whole days was difficult for us.  It completely removed us from our comfort zones.  Going in to the fast, we anticipated that we would eat the same three meals each day: a spinach and cheese omelet for breakfast, an apple with ground almonds (almond butter) for lunch and a quinoa and black bean bowl with wilted spinach and cheese for dinner.  It didn’t take us long, though, to grow tired of the monotony.  We wound up getting creative with our options.  Jeff found that he preferred spinach, apple and water smoothies for breakfast.  I ate a dry spinach salad for lunch a couple of times.  Dinner was the most difficult meal of the day.  The quinoa/spinach bowls only lasted four days.  After that,  I made quinoa/black bean patties one night (which were terrible), a quinoa/black bean scramble the next, and on the last night we all managed to hold down a dry spinach salad.  My stomach growled nearly the entire time because I opted for hunger over forcing down the same flavorless foods.

Was it hard, spiritually?

Yes.  The night before the fast was to begin, I threw somewhat of a tantrum.  I really didn’t want to give up my wine or my sweets, but when I focused my eyes on the cross and what had been done there for me, I was humbled and resigned.  By day two, I was frustrated and grumpy and confused as to how my meals get in the way of my pursuit of Christ.  Several phrases in the book were problematic for me.  On page 22, Hatmaker writes, ” He (God) cannot stand empty obedience.”  I struggled with that thought for several days because though I committed to the fast with a heart that yearned for God’s movement in my life, I definitely had grumbly moments in which I wanted nothing more than a lick of buttercream frosting.  On page 26, Hatmaker writes, “Fasting for the wrong reasons is just narcissistic.”  I feared that my grumbling equated to a wrong heart.  In the end, I think I came to reason that because I approached the fast with a humble, listening heart, my grumbling wasn’t narcissistic.  Much like Abraham when he prepared Isaac as a sacrifice, I didn’t understand how God would use the fast to grow me, but I trusted that he would.  I sought Him in the empty space.

Did God show up?

Of course He did.  Early in the fast, I found myself praying far more often than I normally would.  With every grumble of my tummy, I was reminded to rely fully on my God when my earthly comforts escaped me.  During my nightly prayer time, I experienced some very intense communion during which it became abundantly clear to me that God so ultimately and intimately sustains me.

So it was all unicorns and rainbows then?

Hardly.  When it was time for me to start wilting the &%#@(& spinach on day five, I quite literally curled into the fetal position on the floor of my closet and cried.  I simply couldn’t stomach the thought of taking a single bite more of wilted spincach.  Or quinoa. Or any of my other measly choices.

Did anything about the experience surprise you?

Yes.  In the interest of transparency, I will admit to some ugly, carnal feelings.  Without sharing details, I will say that some members of my study group opted for a less strict variation of the seven foods fast.  Though I was completely in the wrong, I couldn’t gain control of the bitter feelings I had towards those who were still enjoying some of their sustenance comforts while I was knee-deep in quinoa.  In the book, Hatmaker is clear to point out that this is not “some angry, cynical, holier-than-thou experiment to feel superior to others.”  Yet, there I was comparing my fast to theirs and feeling angry that I was all-in while others were taking a different route.  By the end of day four, I had repented of those feelings and I found that God was quick to wipe them away, but I’m surprised (and saddened) that they ever existed in the first place.

Would you do it again?

I don’t plan on doing another food fast anytime soon.  That’s not to say that I’ve ruled it out.  I know that fasts are a tool and that the Bible gives several examples of fasts being used in times of crisis, repentance, mourning and worship.  In my experience, they do present a means of renewed reliance on God.  If God calls me to fast, I will do it again.  If I find my circumstances or situation cluttered and cloudy, I might use fasting as a cleaning tool.  Unless there was a pressing command to fast for seven days again, I don’t think I would.  By day seven, I found myself relying less on God and more on the habit of not eating.  It became a will thing, as opposed to a God thing.  I think that, for me, a shorter and more traditional fast might be a more effective tool in my spiritual arsenal.

What happens next?

We fast from clothes.  More details on that next week.

10 Replies to “My mutiny :: a seven foods for seven days fast”

  1. Wow, it’s very commendable that you made it all the way without giving in. As a Catholic, I fast from meat on Fridays. I’m free to give up something in place of it if I want (sweets, alcohol, something I particularly enjoy like reading my morning paper, or watching my evening show). It’s hard. And it’s just one little thing one day of the week, so…good job!

    1. Thanks, Molly. I’m glad you shared this. I never knew that Catholics fast regularly. I’ve heard of fasting during Lent, but not weekly. I’m curious how the meat fast applies. In other words, are you supposed to simplify your meal on Fridays to make more room for prayer time, or is the meat fast more of a tangible demonstration of your faith?

      1. You’re welcome, Darcie. It’s more of the latter. We fast from meat on Fridays because Jesus died on a Friday. It’s a sign of respect for Him and a way to connect our small sufferings to His enormous one. By denying ourselves a physical comfort, we hope to grow spiritually.

        I should clarify a few terms here. In my comment earlier I should have said that I “abstain” from meat on Fridays. “Abstaining” is the word we use when we go without meat – on Fridays throughout the year (unless we substitute something in place of meat), Ash Wednesday, and Fridays during Lent. “Fasting” is the word we use on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday when we are only supposed to eat two small meatless meals and one regular size meatless meal with no snacking in between them. So, abstaining simply means going without meat, and fasting refers to the number of meals we’re supposed to have on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We hope the physical sacrifice on those days will demonstrate love for God, help us remember His death on the cross, and bring us closer to Him.

        I hope that all makes sense.

  2. Did this book just come out? I am wondering why people are choosing to do this before Lent as opposed to during Lent. I know of some others who are doing this as well. I think they are in week 4 this week. I am Lutheran and while we are not required to Fast, some of us do, but primarily during Lent and possibly during Advent, though that is not as common any more. As a member of a liturgical church, Lent seems the logical time to do this book, especially since Lent is 40 days, not including Sundays, so that would be just a few days shy of the 7 weeks that I think I read that this book covers. That is almost a perfect fit for Lent. Anyways…any insight as to why so many people are starting this book now as opposed to in a few weeks?

    1. I’m not sure when the book was published, Laura, but I know it’s been around awhile. I really can’t speak as to why other groups are doing the same book now, but I will tell you that my particular group thought it was very fitting to start it right after the holidays. This is our first study after the Christmas season. On the heels of a holiday filled with the indulgences of excess food and {gifted} objects, we thought that a fast was an appropriate way of renewing focus on Jesus, the one and only. I agree that Lent would be an ideal time to fast, but having read some of the 7 book, I don’t think that it pertains more to Lent than any other season of the liturgical calendar. So far, I’ve been surprised to find that the content isn’t as Biblically-centered as I would have expected. Rather, it seems to be kind of a general tutorial on how to live a simplified lifestyle in an overcomplicated society. It seems to condemn the American way of life more than it offers Scripture-based application for modern day life. Given my family’s particular lifestyle, I can’t say that this book is terribly convicting, yet, but maybe I’m just not in the meat of it yet. I’m holding out hope!

  3. Laura – The book was a seven month journey for the author, not weeks. Weeks are just what most readers have chosen to do because it is easier. It was published in 2012.

    Darcie, you do better than me then because I found this terribly convicting! We spend so much money on food. Time, too, and thought…it was a good, if painful, lesson for me.

    We think we live a more simple lifestyle than most, but really that is only by American standards. I am ashamed to say we still have so much excess, even after doing the Seven journey.

    1. It may just be that I’m not far enough into it yet, Heather. I’m only now starting the clothing week (week 2).

      My family spends a lot of money (and time) on food as well, but in part I feel like the author encourages that by writing in-depth about the state of America’s food (and food product) supply. I guess I took a different message from the food week than you did. I understood her to be saying that we should be *more* intentional with our food choices as opposed to simply picking up the nearest pop-tart. Being more intentional about those choices requires spending more money (to buy organic or the equivalent), and time (to handcraft meals). I definitely struggled with the message she delivered that week because I thought it focused so heavily on America’s eating woes and didn’t really come full circle to offer a Biblical application. Maybe I need to go back and reread it–it’s entirely possible that my grumbling tummy distracted my reading…

      I know that you felt very convicted by the subject matter. Having finished the whole thing, can you tell me whether the tone remains social-centric throughout? Most of the studies I’ve done offer Biblical application to modern life. And while I do think that Hatmaker makes excellent points with regard to a healthy, intentional diet, I didn’t get a ton of Biblical backing. Which would be fine, if I did not go into this expecting a more spiritual learning experience. Also, did you read the *book* book (234 page) or the member workbook that accompanies the videos? That might be the source of our differing viewpoints. In any case, I’m optimistically curious about the remainder of the study.

      1. Also something I struggle with? Being concise. What I meant was thinking less about food as a source of pleasure, entertainment, etc and more as sustenance. She does encourage you to think more about food sources, but since I think I already do that, I didn’t focus on that portion so much.

  4. I read the book on my kindle, which I can loan you if you’d like. I suspect it may be more of what you are looking for, although I would still call this scripturally based self improvement rather than bible study.

  5. Wow – good for you! And its awesome that Jeff did it too! I can’t help but think it must have been kind of nice not to have to plan meals or cook much for a week.

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