The Common Good

Day 13 and 14: Fasting Is Our Cross

(Editors Note: This post continues updates from Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing for Sojourners, as she experiences the "Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship," taking place on the National Mall.)

Cross emblems handed out to those who are fasting. Photo: Brandon Hook/Sojourners

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Day 13. 11/24/13. 12:17p.m. ET

Entering day 13 of my #Fast4Families. Day 12 was holy ground for me — a crossroads. I woke up that morning sensing God's call to move back into the tent during Thanksgiving week and through Thanksgiving weekend. I did that for the first two days and it was hard on my body. When I left the tent and went back to work, I continued the fast by drinking homemade clear vegetable broth twice a day and fruit juice in the morning. That made it possible for me to continue the fast and still work. 

But now, we're talking about Thanksgiving week. There's no need to worry about being able to work. Sojourners office will be pretty much closed from Wednesday through the weekend. I talked with one of the leading organizers of the #Fast4Families tent yesterday. I told her I'm considering moving into the tent for the week, but I'd need to be able to take V8 a couple of times a day. This was her response: "In order to maintain the integrity of the fast that we have run so far, we can only allow water only fasting while in the tent."

That felt unreasonable to me. After all, it's not good for the body. The body breaks down with only water. "That's not what fasting is about," I thought. I walked away disappointed, that I would not be able to move back into the tent for the week.

I did continue for the day in the tent, yesterday, though. And in the course of that day watching Eliseo Medina's (the fast's leader) dedication, feeling the difference of only living on water (even for that one day), and reflecting on handmade crosses that hang around each faster's neck; I remembered the rich young ruler.

The rich young ruler comes to Jesus and asks, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" After an exchange, Jesus tells him, "There is still one thing lacking. Sell all you have and distribute the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, and follow me." (Luke 19:18-22)

I've always felt critical of the rich young ruler. His response is to turn away sad and go home. Well, I felt like the rich young ruler yesterday.

I had come to the organizer of the fast I had already been a part of for 12 days and asked to move into the tent, with one condition: I be able to drink V8 juice. I was told, in essence "You lack one thing. You must be willing to drink only water to fast inside the tent." I literally turned away sad. I understood the rich young ruler in a way I never had before.

For me it wasn't money, but it was riches. One of the fundamental differences between the rich and poor is the ability to control one's circumstances. In my case, I was unwilling to give up the last thing I had — control of my very body.

When the rich young ruler approached Jesus, Jesus was literally on his way to the cross. In just one and a half chapters he would enter Jerusalem. Within days from that he would be hung on a cross. What I had failed to see before is how seriously Eliseo (the fast's leader) takes the cross.

That is why he insisted when we started that every faster in the tent wear a cross around their neck. That is why he refuses to take anything but water. Eliseo is bearing his cross (as all Jesus followers are commanded to do). And anyone who would fast with him, must take up their cross and follow — not follow Eliseo, but rather follow Jesus to the cross.

It makes sense to drink broth and fruit juice during the day when one also has to work, but when one is living in the tent and there's no need to also work, the intake of even that small level of sustenance is no longer justified. It is extravagant for those headed toward the cross.

The rich young ruler ultimately chose his ability to control his own life through riches over Jesus' call to let go of control and follow him to the cross.

I sat convicted. Speaking with the lead organizer — trying to convince her that V8 was not unreasonable — I had been unwilling to bear the full weight of my cross for the sake of 11 million images of God who are trapped in our nation's broken immigration system, for the sake of hundreds of thousands of families being crushed, mangled and torn apart forever by our public policies, for the sake of the witness of Christ to those families and to the world. I had chosen control and comfort over the cross.

Now, here I was wearing the cross around my neck and living in a chair in the tent, drinking only water, two seats from Eliseo throughout the day on Day 12. I marveled over his submission to suffering for the sake of resurrection, resurrection from bondage to a broken immigration system for 11 million souls. I marveled over Eliseo's submission to the cross.

At the end of the day the young daughter of one of the organizers named Xochitl (pronounced "So-chee") played her guitar and sang a series of songs for the fasters during the Evening Vigil. The last song Xochitl sang was "Blackbird," by Paul McCartney. The song was written as a protest song in 1968. He wrote it while reflecting on the struggle of southern Black people in the U.S. who had struggled in anticipation for their moment to arise.

They suffered. They bore their cross. Others joined them in solidarity and only then did the nation pass the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act and declare war on poverty. Black people and people of faith of every hue bore their cross then. Now, only weeks from what could be the immigrants' equivalent to the "Civil Rights Act," Eliseo is bearing his cross and I have a choice:

Will I bear the full weight of my cross and follow Jesus into the fasting tent this Thanksgiving week? Will I give up control of my body and health — even for a finite time — for the higher good?

Read and pray with me and let's consider together what it means to bear the cross in our times.

 

Day 14. 11/25/13. 12:36 p.m.

I'm in the middle of day 14 of my #Fast4Families. I felt noticeably weaker this morning, but also resolved. Thank you for your prayers for my discernment process. I've come to this: Presupposing my body is able to continue to fast by Wednesday, I will enter the fasting tent then and spend Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day refraining from all but water for immigration reform. If my body holds up, I will continue in the tent for as long as I can hold on through the weekend.

Please pray for God to protect my body. This is truly a faith journey for me. While I fasted on only water for the first two days, since I left the tent 12 days ago, I added fruit juice and clear vegetable broth for sustenance to help me to still be able to work. I’m 14 days in now, so fasting on only water for two or more days will increase the speed of my body’s breakdown from the fast.

So, why am I doing this? Why have I decided to move back into the tent and return to only water for Thanksgiving? Because Thanksgiving is a celebration of our nation. I’m already challenged each Thanksgiving because of my Cherokee/Chickasaw and African-American heritage. I know that the abundance we celebrate today came at great human sacrifice to my ancestors: Their forced sacrifice of land, dignity, and wages for their work laid the foundations for our nation’s abundance today.

This Thanksgiving I am further challenged by the fact that on Thanksgiving day, alone, 1100 more souls will be deported from this land because of our broken immigration system. That’s 1100 mothers, uncles, fathers, and aunties. I just can’t break my fast now and celebrate abundance knowing that while I’m celebrating there is still no reform — not even a timeline for the reform.

So, I will fast— God-willing.

Cecilia Munoz, the White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council, wrote this touching piece about her visit to the #Fast4Families tent last week. Please read it and share.

 

Day 15. 1/26/13. 9:33 a.m.

Entering day 15 of my #Fast4Families. Feeling good! Headed down to fasters' tent to witness press conference calling for an "International Day of Fasting for Immigration Reform" on December 3rd! Would you consider join the fast on Dec 3rd? You can fast all day (ideally) or fast a meal or two. Just fast. More info to come. For now, please prayerfully consider it.

Read previous updates from Lisa's fasting here.

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