A little while ago, our church and school here in Guatemala participated in the Daniel Fast. If you’re not familiar, the Daniel Fast involves saying no to certain food choices for a short period of time in order to focus on spiritual growth and renewal. It’s based on the foods that Daniel (from the Bible) eats when he is brought to Babylon in captivity.
This is not the point of my blog today, but may I invite you to consider cultural differences for a moment? If you live in North America, imagine your pastor announcing that everyone is going to complete a time of fasting… and then everyone (or more or less everyone) does it. They don’t argue. They don’t complain (publicly). They participate. I cannot imagine a hypothetical situation at my church where my pastor would announce a Daniel Fast that we’re all doing because I can’t imagine people actually doing it. Cultural differences are wild, y’all.
We completed three weeks of Daniel Fasting. Because the school and church are very integrated, the school staff and church members participated. School families either participated or didn’t based on their involvement in church. (School staff all attend the church that’s connected to the school; many families attend the same church, but others attend different churches or don’t attend church.)
I live outside of Antigua. It’s about 30 to 45 minutes to get into town, depending on how long I wait for a bus. While I never feel unsafe inside the compound that I live in (with security cameras, concertina wire, and a security guard at the gate), it’s not wise for me to walk around our small village after dark. So I don’t generally go anywhere on weekday afternoons after school. It would need to be quite a quick trip to catch the bus into Antigua, run whatever errands, catch the bus back, and arrive home before dusk.
That means that a) weekend trips into Antigua are valuable because they provide some variety in my week and b) I almost always go out for lunch since it’s many restaurants here are very affordable and I’m not spending money on anything else throughout the week. I have a strict budget, but a weekly lunch out is much more affordable than in Canada, for example.
We started the Daniel Fast on a Saturday. No eating out for lunch that weekend! Two weeks before we started, I caught Covid. That meant the weekend before the Daniel Fast began, I also didn’t get to go out to lunch. I was feeling a little sorry for myself about that. One of my few pleasures in life… gone! An extra opportunity taken away, just because I was sick!
Because of the general once a week trip into town, I plan my meals carefully and make my grocery list accordingly. I usually have a couple of easy-to-throw-together-with staples-won’t-go-bad meal possibilities in my pantry cupboard, like pasta noodles and a jar of pasta sauce, just in case I need something additional during the week. Preparation for the Daniel Fast was much more extensive. I spent numerous hours online before the first Daniel Fast grocery trip, researching recipes, planning out meals, and making my grocery list. Subsequent Friday afternoons had at least an hour dedicated to recipe research and planning.
I ate healthy, flavourful food with a lot of variety. And yet, I got really tired of what I was eating. I got tired of not being able to eat certain foods. I got tired of all of the rules. And I was still really grumpy about missing my weekly lunch out.
And then I was reminded about where I am and how much privilege I have. I have the time to research recipes and make a variety of food. I have the financial resources to buy not just a variety of food, but enough food. I have the ability on a regular basis to eat out once a week. I live in a world where somewhere around 800 million people face hunger. I live in a country with a vast amount of food insecurity – where close to half of children under 5 are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. And I can eat a variety of healthy food and not be hungry… and I am still complaining about it.
I needed a big attitude adjustment.
Our return to regular food after the Daniel Fast was nice. I enjoy being able to buy a bigger variety of food and to not have to plan so thoroughly for every meal. But I hope I don’t quickly forget that attitude adjustment. I hope I remain more grateful for what I have and for my ability to choose what and when and where to eat.