I’ve never participated in an intentional, focused fast. In fact, I’ve never really understood fasting . . . until I started the Cabbage Soup Diet this past week.

I decided to embark upon this seven-day body detox as a part of an overall plan to flush my life of toxins and poisonous habits. The plan allows me to eat as much cabbage soup as I want each day. In addition to the soup, each day carries it’s own parameters. For example, on day one I can also eat as much fruit as I want; day two, vegetables; and so on. The catch is, those are the only items I can eat. In a sense, the diet prescribes a fast from various foods each day.

I have always struggled with the effects of blood sugar swings, so I never really considered fasting from food as a viable practice. In fact, I tried this Cabbage Soup Diet several years ago and could not make it past day three because I needed protein. Correction: my marriage needed protein. So I entered into this challenge with the right to bend the rules if necessary.

My first day was tougher than I ever expected. All day long I craved what I could not have: cheetos from my daughter’s lunch, quesadillas from my husband’s dinner, chicken salad in the deli case, even an Applebee’s commercial left me salivating for a “three course classic for $9.99.” We passed by fast food restaurants, and the smell of greasy, fried goodness caused overwhelming temptation despite the fact that I frequently passed by those same places without noticing them before the diet began.

It was then I realized some profound truths about fasting. I knew missing the item from which you were fasting was supposed to remind you to think about God more often. But I didn’t really get how fasting brought about clarity in decision-making, focus in addressing certain sins, or a true deepening in my walk with God. However, after that first day, I experienced how fasting heightens my senses and makes me more cognizant of what is around me and inside of me. Suddenly I became aware of all the various temptations to fulfill needs and desires with poor choices, rather than one that are healthier and truly satisfy. I could see how the same awareness would result from intentional fasting. It also revealed my heart; I could see how far I was willing to compromise to satisfy an immediate craving, regardless of my longer term purpose or knowing what is truly fulfilling or to my benefit.

Richard Foster says, “Fasting reveals the things that control us. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things come to the surface. . . it is a blessed release to have these things out in the open so that they can be defeated, and we can live with a single eye toward God.”

Fasting is mentioned many times in the Bible as a necessary practice and an important discipline in many strong Biblical leaders’ lives. This season of Lent provides a perfect opportunity to explore this overlooked expression of worship and catalyst for spiritual growth. I encourage you to consider fasting, even if for a short time. Don’t feel like you must wait until next year because you missed the beginning of Lent. Start small. Take some time to explore fasting, and watch your faith grow.