“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” — Matthew 9:17
I’m going to blame this post on the books and their inability to stay autonomous inside my brain. Sometimes the things I read in the morning and in the evening hookup and become a couple while I’m driving or doing dishes. It’s why I love reading several books at a time because every so often a perfect match is made and it feels as if the world is as it should be. Sort of like this…
“Kill your darlings.”* This one piece of writing advice keeps catching my attention. In regards to editing “they”say you need to be brave enough to edit/murder every word that doesn’t make your story clearer, more concise. No matter how cherished those words feel, you’ve got to be willing to kill those darlings. For the sake of the story, nothing can be too precious. This book on writing has a whole chapter on the importance of murder to the editing process.
Then about a month ago a friend shared her experience after reading this book on fasting. I was intrigued by her smile and twinkling eyes, so after reading the first chapter decided to THINK about attempting my first 21 day modified Daniel fast.
And a marriage of two old/new ideas was formed. What if fasting was more about editing than denial?
As I was learning how murderous editing makes for better writing, I knew that my mind, body and soul were in need of some hard edits as well. The timing for a fasting experiment (I use that word because experiments have permission to fail, right?) coincided perfectly as a way to tie up Lent and celebrate Easter. A busy spring loomed ahead with emotional beginnings and ends. Thunderclouds sat waiting on the horizon in almost every area of life. The ever slow poking of my aging metabolism also added frustration to my psyche. It just seemed like a good idea.
Then I read that through prayer and fasting “we produce a container that is ready for the new thing God wants to do. God’s new wine always changes us by expanding our faith, enlarging our purpose, and bringing renewed vision. God is not into old wineskins; it is up to us to shed them.” ** Well alrighty then. And suddenly a “21 day EDIT” seemed like a great idea.
Semantics are key, are they not?
So I picked a short list of darlings to murder from my diet, bad habits to ignore, routines to examine. Goodbye for now pasta and bread and sugar. Goodbye mindless snacking and bedtime crackers. The whole process felt less like denial and more like intentionally tightening up of the margins to allow for better things.
See how that connection just worked? Edit your writing. Edit your eating. I’m discovering that both practices make for a better story. Cleaner, clearer more concise.
Here are a few of the lessons that are just beginning to rise to the surface from this marriage of ideas:
1. I have more darlings in my life than I realized.
It has been grace upon grace in this loosey goosey attempt to kill my darlings. I won’t go into all the additions and subtractions I chose because they aren’t important. I am done with legalistic practices. Just know I have tried and failed and laughed my way through these days, swimming in the grace of just being willing to go somewhere new with Him. What I’m hungry for is a more sanctified heart. I think I’m finally realizing that fasting isn’t about the food. It’s about trust and saying yes to God with a physical process to uncover a more important spiritual process. He’s just waiting on a willing heart, regardless of our ‘modified” efforts.
2. Mindfulness makes everything taste better.
By editing my daily story in ways that involved routine and delicious foods it made me more mindful. It woke me up to the rhythms of my day and especially the times of day when junk got thrown in my mouth and heart. Editing out empty calories and extra helpings brought a fresh awareness of the connection between my mind and body. Mindful eating makes me more mindful of the words I type and speak. More mindful of how I spend my precious moments. And the occasional inclusion of a celebration dessert or dinner? This process only made that ordinary food taste so much better.
3. God’s directions are always beneficial.
I now see fasting as a wise means of editing out the junk, a method to quiet down the noise that crowds out the message I want my life story to tell. It made my story clearer in my own head, because the author’s voice could be heard more precisely. Many times it felt like God and I were in on a sweet little secret together. The edits in my day allowed room for his presence to be felt with more frequency and depth. His flavors felt fresher and more distinct. Prayer came easier, thank goodness because there seemed way more reasons than usual for it. Or maybe I just became aware of what was there all along. And at the end I feel healthier, both body and mind.
Why don’t we trust the processes that God encourages us toward? We get a little squirrelly at the thought of saying NO to ourselves and it keeps us from experiencing abundant life. We want to hang on to every precious thing instead of editing out the necessary.
It is our story that actually suffers. Its true in life and in writing. I’m learning that when we edit out the fluff, the real story comes through with eloquence. A cleaner more edited story is nothing to be afraid of, but rather embraced with laughter and grace.
Thank you books. Ideas that marry are the best.
*attributed to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing -1916
**Awakening: 21 Days to Revolutionize Your Relationship with God by Stovall Weems
***The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standarized Text For Writing and Life by Marion Roach Smith