“You want me to what?” Jason asked.
“Go without eating or drinking for a day,” Amanda said.
“Are you crazy?”
Amanda never got too excited by Jason’s complaints. The two of them had become good friends when they were in a play together at school. When he found out she was a member of the Church, he started asking a lot of questions. Finally, she got him to take the missionary lessons. A month later, he had been baptized.
“It’s called fasting,” she said. “It’s something we do once a month.”
“You people just keep after a guy, don’t you? At first it was ‘Just listen to the missionaries. It’s only six lessons.’ I agreed to that. And then it was ‘Just read a few pages of the Book of Mormon.’ And I went along with that. And then it was ‘Don’t use alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea.’ And I went along with that. And then it was ‘Go to church every Sunday for three hours.’ And then it was tithing. And then it was ‘Get baptized.’ And I went along with that. But now it’s, ‘Don’t eat.’ This time you’ve gone too far.”
She smiled. “Poor baby.”
“I’m serious. Eating is number one on my list of favorite things to do.”
“There are blessings for fasting.”
“Blessings? What possible good thing can come from not eating?”
“All I’m asking you to do is just try. There’s more to fasting than not eating or drinking.”
“More? Do you give blood too?”
“I meant not eating is only a small part of what fasting is all about,” Amanda said.
“Not eating will never be a small part of anything. I like to eat, okay?”
“I’ve noticed. Just try it one time. You’ll see. I’ll help you get through it.”
Jason sighed. “All right. You win. You always win.”
“Is that why you got baptized?”
He became unusually serious. “I found out that what the missionaries were telling me was true.”
“You can get the same kind of testimony about fasting.”
The next Saturday was the first weekend of the month. Amanda invited Jason to lunch with her family. It would be their last meal before they began fasting.
After everyone else had left, Jason was still at the table. She watched him eat another slice of bread and jam, then drink another glass of milk. “Done now?” she asked.
He looked around the room. “You got any candy? A cookie? Maybe some ice cream?”
“Jason, we’ve already had dessert.”
“That was ten minutes ago.” He looked in her fridge but didn’t see anything he wanted. “I guess I’m ready.”
“Okay. Fasting is more than just going hungry. There’s a spiritual side to it too. So usually I like to have a prayer when I start. Most of the time I just go in my room and say my own prayer, but maybe today we could say a prayer right here. Is that okay?”
As soon as their prayer was over, Jason said, “Did you know there was an ice cream bar in your freezer?”
“Too late. We’ve already started.”
“That’s it for 24 hours?”
“That’s right. We’ll eat after we get home from church tomorrow.”
He looked at his watch. Two minutes had passed. “I’m not going to make it.”
At two o’clock Jason went home. At seven-thirty that night he came back. “This isn’t working out.”
“I mowed the lawn. It was so hot out. I went to get something to drink and then I remembered I’m fasting. So I didn’t have anything, but now my mouth feels like it’s stuffed with cotton.”
“Oh, I should have told you. I usually do things like that before I start fasting. Sorry. Next time you’ll know.”
“There’s not going to be a next time. This is too hard. Besides, my aunt is staying with us for the weekend. Since I didn’t eat I had to tell her why.”
“What did you say?” Amanda asked.
“I said I was fasting. She said she knows a good psychologist. I had to get away from her for a while.” He looked at his watch. “Just 18 hours to go and then I will be able to eat.”
Jason shook his head. “Let me tell you—fasting is not rejoicing.”
“It can be.”
“We have a physical side and a spiritual side to us, right?” she said.
“Usually the physical side is dominant, but when we fast, it gives our spiritual side a chance to show itself. So instead of thinking about what you’re giving up, try to get closer to Father in Heaven. Maybe there’s some encouragement he wants you to have. Listen with your spiritual side.”
“How do I do that?”
“That’s one of the reasons I read the scriptures and pray and go to church and seminary—to find out what message Heavenly Father might have for me.”
“If somebody wants to get a message to me, all they have to do is put it on a cereal box. I always read those. Speaking of cereal …”
“When I fast, I like to read the Book of Mormon and my patriarchal blessing. And I like to write in my journal.”
“Not to me. The way I look at it, life is like a rough game and fasting is like calling time out so you can rest.”
“Usually during a time out, the players get Gatorade.”
“Jason, c’mon, get your mind off food.”
He fell to the floor as if he were about to die. “I’m not going to make it, Amanda. You go on without me.”
“Go home, Jason. Spend some time with yourself. Think about your life.”
Jason went home and, because every TV commercial was about food or drinks, he decided the only way he was going to get through the night without eating was to go to bed early.
The next morning he met Amanda in the hallway before church started.
“This is the best part of fasting,” she said just before sacrament meeting began.
Somewhere during the meeting he realized he didn’t feel the same urgency to eat as he had the night before. He was still hungry, but he felt like he could get by until church was over. He thought maybe Amanda was right and that his spiritual side was now a little stronger than normal. He appreciated the testimonies of people who told how Heavenly Father had answered their prayers.
Amanda brushed by him on her way to the stand. She went to the podium and began to speak. She said she was proud of Jason for having the courage to be baptized, and this was the first time he had ever fasted, and how proud of him she was that he was willing to do that. She talked about how much she loved her family. Then she said, “My dad once told me when we give our testimonies we should always talk about how the Savior has blessed our life. I’m grateful to know he died for my sins. I know that someday I’ll see him.”
Jason, listening to Amanda, felt tears in his eyes. He was wiping his eyes with his hand when Amanda’s mother leaned over and handed him a tissue. He nodded and wiped his eyes.
When Amanda sat down, she reached over and touched his sleeve. “Now it’s your turn.”
Jason thought about it. He did have something to say. He felt he had made the right decision in being baptized. Now he had something to hold on to. He was just about to stand up when the bishop announced the closing song and prayer.
“Next month, okay?” Amanda whispered.
The other meetings he attended that day seemed even better than usual. Jason knew it was because he was fasting.
And then church was over. “Well, what do you think?” Amanda asked as they walked out to her family’s car.
“It wasn’t too bad actually.”
“You want to try it again next month?” she asked.
“Yeah, I think I will.”
Jason went home. His aunt was busy in the kitchen. “I made you spaghetti and garlic bread,” she said, looking worried.
“That’d be great.”
“The boy’s going to eat something,” his aunt called to the rest of the neighborhood. “I knew my spaghetti would bring him to his senses.”
Jason sighed. Someday he would try to explain all this to his family.
As he ate with his family, everything tasted better than he had ever remembered. He kept telling his aunt how wonderful the food tasted.
When he was finished eating, he felt wonderful. It surprised him, but he looked forward to fasting next month. The scriptures are right after all, he thought. Fasting is rejoicing.
On his way to Amanda’s house, he wondered if the ice cream bar was still in her freezer.