Welcome to the Ethos blog. The following post was written in a past season of prayer and fasting, but we still find it to be full of wisdom, practicality, and insight. If you find errors (past dates, etc) — we hope you'll graciously overlook those as you mine for pearls of wisdom here.
- - - - -
Brandon Steele leads our staff and church with the pastoral and shepherding gifts that God has given him — and he can often be found teaching on Sundays at our Marathon Music Works location. He's married to Courtney, and they have three kiddos, Finley, Jones, and Merritt! The following blog was written by Brandon to help us walk through the tensions of fasting and still being part of our regular communities: work, school, social groups, etc. We hope this blog will be a blessing to you — and offer you some practical knowledge and application!
- - - - -
Let me explain the title. I have been married 8.5 years to Courtney. We dated 2.5 years before getting married. One of my wife’s favorite surprises is getting flowers. She even told me that during college. So, as a smart man who wanted to keep dating her, more than that, who wanted to express love to her in a way that he knew she would appreciate, I bought her flowers. Sometimes I buy them online and have them delivered, sometimes I go to Kroger, and sometimes, when we have a little bit more in the account, I’ll go to a nice flower shop and get her some really good flowers. Laying all my cards on the table, I really like buying flowers from a flower store.
Well, partially because the quality is going to be high. The other part is the people. Everyone walking in and out of a flower store is giving flowers. You have the college guy getting his girlfriend roses. He passes you and smiles. You both know that he’s making a good choice. His lady will be happy.
You have the older lady buying flowers for one of her friends. You smile and your eyes meet and you nod, knowing she’s about to make someone’s day.
Everyone in the flower shop is there for a reason, they know flowers will bring joy and hopefully express their feelings to the one who will be receiving them.
I don’t like buying flowers from Kroger, but I do sometimes. They are cheaper in cost and typically pretty high in quality. Why don’t you like buying flowers from there then?
I grab a bouquet of flowers, lilies or hydrangeas preferably, and walk through the store. But, I’m not met with the same eyes as in a flower store.
People are buying flour and toilet paper and frozen fruit for their smoothies at Kroger. Most are not buying flowers.
My mind starts wondering as I walk as fast as I can from the flower refrigerator to the do-it-yourself check out counter. I pass a woman with a big, sparkly wedding ring, decked out in her lululemon attire and sporting a Louis Vuitton purse on her shoulder. I can feel her eyes of judgment and hear her voice saying (in my head, of course,) “cheap husband. Buy her some expensive flowers.”
And I say back to her (in my head, of course), “But you don’t know how little I have.” And I lower my head in shame, as I walk through the store, knowing I should be buying her expensive flowers that I can’t afford right now.
I pass a young woman shopping by herself. I wonder if she is hoping her boyfriend will bring her flowers this afternoon or if she’s frustrated because she knows no one is bringing her flowers. I lower my head and try not to make eye contact.
I see an older gentlemen with a ring on his finger and I look up. There is so hope in me. “Maybe he’ll see these flowers and it will motivate him to buy his bride some flowers. That would be the best case possible. Me making my wife happy and spurring someone else on to buy their wife flowers and make her happy.”
In the 11 years that I have been buying flowers, I have never had someone come up to me at Kroger and say, “You inspired me to buy flowers for my wife today. Way to go. Keep being a good husband.”
I mostly just keep my head down and try to get out of there so that I can give the flowers to Court.
Here is why I am writing all this. First, because my friend, Caity asked me to. Second, we’re going to be fasting and praying together as a church for 30 days. And I’m excited that we’re doing this together.
But, let’s be honest, we’re going to be around our co-workers, our families, our friends, many of whom aren’t fasting. Many who aren’t a part of our church, who aren’t a part of any church, who don’t believe in Jesus at all.
And there will be questions...
Why are you fasting?
Why aren’t you eating?
Why are you putting your beliefs in my face? (this is more something you’ll feel, but it might be said.)
Why are you so much better and holier than me? (this too, is something you’ll perceive people thinking, maybe even other Christians.)
Fasting is going to be hard. No doubt about that. But, it won’t be as hard when we’re all together. We’ll understand each other. We all know that we’re doing this because we love Jesus and we want more of him. Sundays and House Churches and being around each other are like buying flowers in the expensive flower store.
But what about the rest of the week? What do I do when I’m trying to fast, trying to show my love to the Lord, around people who don’t love him or who aren’t fasting, those who are at Kroger to buy flour and not flowers?
What do we do with the questions they will ask?
Here is a suggestion: in humility, just be honest. Tell them why you are fasting and praying. (This will require you to think some. Let me help you here and ask you, Why are you fasting? Why are you praying? Is it because your campus pastor asked you to? Is it because everyone else in church is? Is it because you want to know GOD more? Why?) Answer them kindly and in humility, knowing you can’t control what they think or feel about you, about themselves or about GOD.
What do we do when we know we’ll face ridicule for what we’re doing? What if our wife or husband isn’t on board? What if our co-worker doesn’t believe in Jesus? What if…
I am reminded of the words of Peter in 1 Peter 2...Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify GOD on the day he visits us.
I’m not saying your spouse is pagan, or your co-worker is a pagan. They could be devoted followers of Jesus, a part of a different church that hasn’t talked about fasting or who isn’t currently fasting. Or they might just not be in a place where they want to fast.
What I AM SAYING is that it’s okay to have confidence in what you’re doing (in fasting and praying), to walk through Kroger with your eyes up, holding the flowers proudly. You don’t have to disappear during work lunch. You don’t have to lie about what you’re doing. You don’t have to shy away from telling them if they ask.
I personally am going to be fasting and praying, because I want to show GOD that He is worth setting some things aside for so that I can use that time to be with him. I want to see how he will sustain me and satisfy me in the midst of being hungry. I believe that GOD will draw especially near, not just to me, but to our community and I want that for our community. So, I’m fasting for me and for our church, so we can know GOD more.
Think through why you will be fasting and praying during this season and have confidence when you share. You are buying flowers for the one you love, don’t be ashamed of that.
If they don’t understand, that’s okay. If they think you’re crazy, that’s okay. If they don’t agree, that’s okay.
Because maybe, just maybe, we’ll get the best case possible: we’ll buy flowers for the one we love and we’ll inspire others to do so as well.
And for those who don’t agree with us, who don’t like what we’re doing, pray for them during the fast. And keep living a good life among them. Don’t disconnect. Don’t judge. Keep loving them.
Maybe flowers from Kroger aren’t so bad after all…