I grew up knowing I needed to fast from work on Sundays. At church and from mom, I learned that you simply observed the Sabbath. In fact, my McDonald’s manager once begged me to work a Sunday afternoon shift because everyone had called off. She was stuck and desperate, and yet apologized profusely for asking me to bend religious convictions. I said no.
That relationship never recovered.
Even if I were right to stand my ground, is limiting the Sabbath to a day off enough? Specifically, is there nothing else from the remaining six days that could use a fast, particularly when it comes to work? To answer this question, I’ve invited a few High Calling friends to help me, but first I want to explain where I’m coming from.
For years I’ve maintained an oddly consistent pattern regarding TV. At its worst, it goes something like this: In late Summer I watch a single hour of late-night news, an hour which, after months away, feels strange with its commercial messages, program editing, flashy graphics, and North American perspective.
A few weeks later I add a sit-com and more news and something from PBS. Then the NFL football season kicks off and I enjoy a three-hour game on Sunday afternoon. And then every Sunday afternoon. Fall comes with new prime-time shows and a second game on the weekend. By October, weeknights have reserved a regular place for me on the couch, and—my wife with me or not—I watch TV for long hours and end up losing sleep several nights a week.
Depending on how the Pittsburgh Steelers’ competitors fare, I add a third game to Sunday afternoon just about the time my favorite Christmas specials return. Play-offs fill January and I’m happy to escape the dark cold of winter nights in other pixilated worlds. By the time the Super Bowl rolls around, I’ve left house projects undone, let books collect dust, and become acutely aware that something is missing. I've become a full-blown couch potato.
That’s when I unplug the TV.
Having maintained a similar cycle for years now, I’ve witnessed, among other things, a pattern of regeneration. When I begin the fast in early February, I’m sick of TV but only two days later itch to return because, after all, it’s Tuesday evening and I remember what’s on Tuesday evenings. (I feel like Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me when he’s literally dying from fast food but strangely looks forward to eating it again for dinner.)
The itching subsides and I enter a period of forgetfulness. I no longer remember what I’m missing but instead find new space for activities and rest. I read. I write. I go to sleep. Energy returns. With the awakening of spring, I myself awaken, being renewed and enjoying productivity.
By the way, I don’t spend the Lenten season debasing television. For all its problems, TV is not inherently evil. I just a need a break from it. When I watch that news hour in late Summer, I have a new relationship with this particular media outlet. TV doesn’t have a hold on me any longer. It isn’t an idol. Additionally, I can see it more clearly for what it is—with all of its goods and bads.
I'm convinced that such a pattern exists in every cultural aspect of my life. Family, leisure, finances, work—all of these can grow disproportionately and mask my ability to have right relationships with them. Jesus even asks, “And why do you worry about clothes?” No area of our lives stands immune from disorder.
I’d like to invite you to follow along these coming Fridays. Friends will discuss fasting from work-related goods including ladder-climbing, earning, competing, producing, and consuming. Notice that each of these activities are good elements of our vocational lives. They don’t stay that way, however. As with my TV viewing, they require an occasional cleansing. A reset. An unplug beyond a mere one day off in seven.
Join us as we explore how this might happen, and to what end our fasting might aim. We’ll begin next week with "A Fast from Ladder Climbing."
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"More Than a Sabbath" Collection
- How to Fast the Other Six Days
- My Fast from Ladder Climbing
- My Fast from Earning
- My Fast from Competing
- My Fast from Producing
- My Fast from Consuming