When I think of search and replace, I think of The Office. There's an episode where Michael is out of the office and everyone else is reading through a script that Michael wrote. The main sidekick's name was originally Dwight, but Michael changed it. Unfortunately, search and replace only replaces words spelled correctly.
I bring this up because I think fasting is a little bit like search and replace. My church is getting ready to be a part of a 21 day fast, and I've overheard lots of people talking about what they're going to fast. Some people are going to skip a certain kind of food (like coffee or sweets), some will fast a meal or two, some will fast some sort of media (like Facebook). What I haven't heard people talking about as much is how they plan to use that time.
I've always understood fasting to be about eliminating something and using the time you would have spent on that in prayer and meditation or Bible reading. If I stop eating for three weeks, but spend zero time praying or reading my Bible, then I don't think that really counts in terms a spiritual fast. This is the part that's most difficult for me when it comes to fasting. It's certainly not easy to choose to skip meals, but it's even harder for me to deliberately set aside that time instead of having it run into all my other time. It's much easier to skip breakfast and sleep in for an extra 10 minutes. I'm also the type of person who is usually doing something while I eat, so I don't even have time set aside for that on its own on an ordinary day.
I wonder if fasting isn't so much about giving something up as it is making time to focus on God. I think removing something can help create that space, but it's only part of the equation. It will be interesting to see how the next several weeks play out, both in my life and at church.