I wasn’t planning on “giving up” anything for Lent this year. As my faith matured over the years, I started to view this practice as a bit of works righteousness. The idea that giving up chocolate for 40 days would somehow impress God or improve the condition of my soul seemed pretty ridiculous!
However, last night at the Ash Wednesday service, Pastor Brian put this traditional practice in perspective as a spiritual discipline for repentence of our sins during the Lenten season, rather than a futile attempt to earn God’s favor. I started to consider what I could give up, in addition to adding Lenten devotions to our family routine. My first thought was to make a dietary resolution, but those are challenging when you have diabetes and blood sugar considerations will always dictate when and what I eat.
Then, I thought of the things that I rely on in life in place of putting my trust and dependence on Christ. Coffee immediately sprung to mind! My daily coffee consumption has increased over the past few years and now afternoon coffee is pretty routine and I probably average three cups a day. I’ve started to use coffee for the boost in both energy and mood. I’ve noticed some negative impacts on my hydration and generally don’t like feeling addicted to something. When I considered cutting back on coffee in the past, I kept deciding against it based on the fact that coffee/caffeine is something I enjoy and I ought to treat myself!
The past couple months have involved a lot of soul searching, emotion, and relying on Christ in my day-to-day life in a profound way. Limiting myself to one cup of coffee per day will take real mindfulness and reliance on prayer and surrender, instead of propping myself up with another cup of coffee when my energy or mood is low. Today I did it! One cup with breakfast and then that was it. I didn’t spend time trying to decide when to have more coffee, as it was off the table. I had a tough day, but instead of reaching for coffee, I let myself feel down and focused on the next thing in front of me.
I just finished reading a book gifted to me by my dear Deaconess. It’s called Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by Rev. John W. Kleinig. It will undoubtedly be the book (second to the Bible!) that I return to for guidance over and over again. Truly, I could spend the rest of my writing/blogging years on the themes and quotations from this book!
Speaking of our approaching God, Kleinig writes:
We have nothing to give and everything to receive. All that we ever receive from God the Father comes to us through Jesus, our intercessor and advocate. We depend on Him for everything. Apart from Jesus, we are helpless before God the Father. Jesus alone is holy. We borrow our holiness and everything else from Him. (pg. 277).
This season of my life has taught me about resting in God and letting go of striving. Surrendering and accepting that Jesus has already accomplished everything needful for my life and salvation is liberating and humbling. God doesn’t need my good works or my efforts to improve myself. I am holy because of Christ and Him alone.
My heart feels ready for Lent this year. Ready to lean in to the aching and sadness of life as we reflect on our sinfulness and Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. Ready to prepare my heart to celebrate with true hope and joy when we reach Easter and rejoice in the resurrection. By then, I’ll surely be ready for a second cup of coffee.