Eight Long Weeks: The Pepsi Fast

At the outset of the spiritual disciplines class I just completed, our instructor asked us to commit to a bodily discipline for the entirety of the eight-week class. We could choose to practice some form of regular exercise, give up a certain food item, or even practice certain habits of rest — something that would engage our bodies in some specific way for eight weeks.

For my bodily discipline, I chose to conduct an eight-week Pepsi fast. Since Pepsi is the only soda I drink, this basically means that I gave up soda for eight weeks straight.

I chose this fast because it had become increasingly clear in the weeks before starting this class that I had an unhealthy dependence on Pepsi. Every time I went to the grocery store, I would pick up two or three 2-liter bottles of Pepsi, and they would all be gone within 5 days. I would drink Pepsi with meals, and I would drink it with snacks. I would drink it while sitting at my desk working on the computer, which is literally how I spend most of my days. I had become addicted to the taste, as well as to the comfort and familiarity of routine it provided me. So I decided to abstain for eight weeks and see what happened.

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What Does the Fast Reveal?

This past week, I practiced a partial media fast for my course on the spiritual disciplines. This means that instead of checking my e-mail, blog feedreader, or Facebook account after I woke up each morning, I refrained from accessing the internet until 12:00 noon. 

I have practiced fasting on occasion in the past, usually when I am seeking wisdom about a particular decision. These have been food fasts for a certain period of hours or number of meals. And once, in my senior year of college, I gave up Dr. Pepper for seven months because I could no longer ignore that it was a mindless addiction.

But in each of these instances, I can’t say I used those opportunities to truly be with God.

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The Principle of Indirection

About a week and a half ago, I began an eight-week Pepsi fast as part of a spiritual disciplines course I’ve been taking at Spring Arbor. I’ll write more about the reasons for the fast and the impact it has on my life once the eight-week practice has finished, but I at least wanted to write a short note today about what I’m discovering about the principle of indirection — namely, that it works!

Richard Foster writes about the principle of indirection in an essay included at the beginning of the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible (which is a great resource, by the way, that I highly recommend). He says:

“We cannot by direct effort make ourselves into the kind of people who can live fully alive to God. Only God can accomplish this in us … We do not, for example, become humble merely by trying to become humble. Action on our own would make us all the more proud of our humility. No, we instead train with Spiritual Disciplines appropriate to our need … By an act of the will we choose to take up disciplines of the spiritual life that we can do. These disciplines are all actions of body, mind, and spirit that are within our power to do … Then the grace of God steps in, takes this simple offering of ourselves, and creates out of it the kind of person who embodies the goodness of God.”

We do what we can do so that God can cultivate in us what we cannot do ourselves. Yes, that is what I’m learning already through the seemingly simple practice of this Pepsi fast.

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