Now I’ve had several endoscopes done (camera down the orifice we call our mouth and into our stomach) but now I’ve had a colonoscopy (camera up the orifice we call our rectum into the colon) – which is the medical community’s reward for living to be 50! Now, actually, I’ve had both done in the same procedure. Which, pre-anesthesia, prompted me to ask my doctor, “If you are going to use the same camera, do you mind working from the top down?” I don’t think she thought that very funny so I quickly blamed those “happy drugs” they were feeding me through the IV. I was then, without a word, quickly whisked away to a deep sleep and this violating invasion of two of my most treasured orifices. 

And treasured they are. First, do you know how addicted to food we are? I had to go over 40 hours without ingesting anything solid. I was ready to eat immediately after this “fast” began. I know, we need food to live but most Westerners don’t eat with survival in mind. We ravenously consume food more for pleasure than preservation. We grumble (me, too) and throw a pity party (me, three) when we don’t get our 3000 daily calories just like we want them and just when we want them. And that’s the point: it’s more about want than need. We have become so very spoiled. Yet people the world over would give there left arm away for a morsel of what we throw out. I know because, once I stopped eating, I was hungry after 27 minutes, starving after 31 minutes, famished after an hour and near the point of death the next morning. And I still had 30 hours to go! Can we imagine those who are truly dying of starvation? And when was the last time we gave sacrificially to alleviate someone’s physical hunger?

And now for that other orifice, the one located in the “fanny” region. A colonoscopy requires a preparation euphemistically called a “colon cleansing.” You drink some putrid tasting liquid mixture and then “thar she blows.” And she doesn’t stop. The toilet trips seem interminable. After buying truck loads of “Cottonelle with Aloe and E” toilet paper, my recommendation is to take up semi-permanent residence on the throne. Then stack up the toilet paper rolls fortress-like around the potty. You must get a good book – I would recommend to book of Acts or Colossians – they worked for me (I hope you get the humor in these two book choices. If not, keep saying them aloud, over and over again, until it hits you). Be prepared; something truly incredible happens. More “junk” comes out of your body than is comprehensible. My entire life I have been rightly told that I am “full of it” but this was ridiculous! The amount of this “stuff” is better measured in tons than gallons.

And all of this caused me to pray, to pray with great fervor, to pray without ceasing. Praying for my growling belly and my gushing colon. So there you have it – I fasted and prayed. OK, I know I can’t get all puffed up here since it was a forced fast. But it did remind me how spiritually obese and lazy I had become, how I needed to be spiritually cleansed. And a voluntary, biblical fast, combined with prayer, is one of the models given for this purpose. Such a discipline causes us to refrain from our natural appetites and seek God’s spiritual nourishment. All of the examples of fasting (and its purposes) and praying throughout scripture (see Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21, 31; 2 Samuel 12:15-18; Acts 13:1-3) is beyond the scope of this discussion, but we must recognize fasting combined with prayer is very biblical. But when was the last time we did it, seeking God’s presence, wisdom and guidance?

Jesus both taught and modeled fasting. After being anointed by the Holy Spirit, He was led into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days (Matthew 4:2). During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave specific instructions on how to fast (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus knew the followers He addressed would fast. But fasting is not limited to believers the Bible mentions. Most of the church’s reformers, including Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox, fasted. Knox fasted and prayed so much that Queen Mary said she feared his prayers more than all the armies of Scotland.

So here is a short list of random spiritual lessons learned from my colonoscopy:

  • We as American Christians tend to avoid pain at all cost – even when it is good for us (see 1 Peter 1:6-9). 
  • We tend to be thankless gluttons and don’t do enough to alleviate hunger in our world (Philippians 3:18-21; James 4:2–3). 
  • We tend to pray when we want something and not as a practice of communing with God for the pure pleasure of fellowship, thanksgiving, and praise (see Matthew 6:5-15). 
  • We have become spiritually lazy and undisciplined in the midst of our worldly comforts (see Hebrews 12:1-2; I Corinthians 9:27). 
  • We are in desperate need of spiritual cleansing (see Psalm 51:2). 
  • Fasting is a Scriptural way for us to deal with all of the above issues and we should, where physically possible, engage in this beautiful and powerful practice (see Matthew 6:16-18). 

And the shame of if all is that it took a Gastroenterologist’s medical advice to remind me that in all things God is pointing us back to Himself. Even through a colonoscopy! Isn’t He so good?!