How A 31-Day Social Media Fast Changed My Life
I’ve seen God work too many miracles to not believe that things will work out for the better.
There’s a lot of anxiety evoking news in circulation. You can’t avoid it. From the very beginning, people have been glued to computer screens, TV screens, phone screens in a desperate search for life saving information. People are so tuned in, that they are spending more time online, hoping for an ounce of relief, than they are spending relying on their religious and spiritual beliefs.
At the start of all the pandemic mess, I had just embarked on my first serious try at fasting. I had second hand experience from friends and family members who, for religious and spiritual purposes, would intermittently fast from food. I’d heard of people praying and fasting in hopes of having prayers answered, but fasting wasn’t something that I thought I was strong enough in my faith to do.
I had this false idea that if you fasted for religious reasons, it meant your faith was stronger, that you were more devout in faith than other believers. I’ve since abandoned this idea, but until I completed a 31-day fast for myself, I could only admire the people who fasted and prayed consistently.
As a child I remember hearing two stories about my maternal great-grandmother, Granny. The first, was that Granny would walk to church every day rain or shine. The second story was of Granny’s ability to fast for an inhumanely long time. Family legend says that Granny didn’t eat anything for the 40 days leading to Resurrection Sunday. Fasting was an important part of her devotion to God.
By the time I came around, she was in her eighties and had stopped her daily walks to church and fasting because of her health. Back then, when I’d ask why she liked to go to church so often she’d say, “because my friend is there”. I don’t know for sure whether she was talking about a person or God. But what I know for certain is that she loved God above all else.
Granny lived through endless pages of an American history book. She was a small black woman, married in the 1920s, raised children through the1930s, grands and great-grands through the 1960s and ‘70’s. A quick history lesson of Nelson County, Virginia and Washington DC will reveal a lot about what people in this country have overcome.
I’d imagine that, much like many of us are feeling in the corona virus era, at some point in Granny’s life, she faced fear, hopelessness, and uncertainty. But having lived through the myriad of challenges, she lived to see how, not by her own strength, she and her family made it through. I now understand why she loved God so much.
Granny was grateful.
Though small and frail when she passed, the deepness of her faith was beautiful to me. Even as a child, I knew that something about her connection with God was special. It fascinated me.
Having worked in 24x7x365 computer security operations centers, I can tell you that defending a company’s network looks different at 6 o’clock in the morning when you haven’t had coffee. Even-still, over the years, I’d watch friends and colleagues come into the office every morning, having to work through the intoxicating aroma of coffee, and though they were tired, and the 5 o’clock breakfast would not easily propel them through an 8-hour shift, they did not complain. Not once. In fact, they the were excited for the opportunity to fast, and sit in prayer.
At the time, I was used to praying often, but it wasn’t an intentional committed daily practice. And giving up food, whether intermittently or not, was nothing I ever wanted to do. I’m a thick woman. I don’t miss meals. Not by choice.
I didn’t think I could do it. For years, my fear of failure fueled my excuses and kept me from trying.
As a child, I remember conversations with my maternal grandma about fasting during the Lenten season. As my first partner in crime, Grandma would tell me that I didn’t have to fast like everyone else. This is something I called Grandma’s Golden Fast Pass, which I carried well into my adult years. Guilt free. Until I’d devour a delicious cheese burger, with bacon, on the Friday before Resurrection Sunday. It’s then that I can hear my Grandma’s voice clear as day, “Not even a DOG eats meat on Good Friday.” I hear you Grandma. I am ashamed.
Up until March 2020, I’d only fasted if I were giving blood for an annual physical exam. Then, the opportunity to fast, with what would soon be my new church home, presented itself. This annual church-wide fast sought to draw closer to God through a combination of a physical fast (intermittent fasting or Daniel fast) and exercising financial restraint (no frivolous spending), with the end goal of increasing personal time with God in prayer. This perfectly aligned with my wish to build a closer relationship with God. So I made the commitment. I’m glad I did.
For 31 days I spent daily dedicated time in prayer. I refrained from caffeine, processed sugar (which wasn’t so bad), and social media. I also tried to stop cussing. I’m still working on that one. There was some intermittent fasting, which didn’t work well with my body but I’m proud of what I did.
I woke up every morning at five-thirty to eat, which meant meal prepping a healthy filling meal, and actually waking up to eat. I struggle with meal prepping, but 12 hours without food, is a lot of hours. Hunger is a great incentive to wake up on time and properly plan meals.
The fast challenged me mentally and physically. But spiritually it was nothing but fulfilling. During the fast, I unwittingly avoided the social media meltdowns and blowouts over the virus. I wasn’t inundated with click-baiting news stories and think pieces. I didn’t have to watch the world collectively spiral then shut down. I’d say this perfectly timed social media fast, saved me from a lot of panic attacks, but that would be a lie and I don’t believe in coincidences.
Avoiding social media alone did nothing to prevent the on flood of sadness, anxiety, and depression you feel when a police officer asks you to stand six feet apart in a line outside of the same grocery store that you freely jogged into a month ago, for a pack of Oreos and fresh squeezed lemonade.
During the fast I didn’t focus on what was happening outside. I was deep in conversation with God. I’ve been in deep conversation with Him ever since.
I’m not sharing this story to say that fasting is what everyone should do and that this is what we all need to do to make the world less sucky.
No one knows when all this will be over. No one knows what good or bad tomorrow brings, but worrying isn’t working, neither is trying to ignore it.
Now, at the end of my 31 day fast, remembering the strength of my Granny’s faith, the dedication of my Grandmother, friends, and colleagues, I am not afraid. I rest comfortably knowing that God is in control no matter what goes viral.
Perhaps this global crisis is forcing us to stay indoors and focus on what is important; our relationship with God.
I hope this helps someone.