I’ve gotta admit Lent hasn’t really been what I thought it would be. Which maybe is a good thing, but I shouldn’t be so quick to justify myself.
Originally, I envisioned myself giving daily updates on my blog about my experience. That didn’t happen. I thought that my daily sufferings without coffee, tea, or Coke would draw me into this vortex of spiritual contemplation with the suffering Christ of Gethsemane. That hasn’t really been the case (although it has been suffering). It seems to me, that as Easter approaches, the only thing I can walk away saying is that I did this. I did it. And really, what kept me going all along wasn’t that I figured if I kept going that I would reap the benefit, but really, I was doing it for a rather simple reason, namely, I wanted to do it for God.
Alright, so that sounds cocky, or cheesy, and maybe a few other things. But really, that’s what it’s been about. I’ve been reading this pretty entertaining book, The Year of Living Biblically, and in one of these sections, where the author talks about the benefits he gets from praying and Sabbathing, his rabbi stops him mid-sentence and tells him he’s treading on dangerous ground. If he’s praying, reading Scripture, Sabbathing for the benefits, then he’s denigrating these sacred acts into self-service or self-help; they’re no longer about God. Sure, God is part of the equation, but he becomes more like some secret ingredient. That really struck the agnostic Jewish-like-Olive-Garden-is-Italian author. And it struck me.
As Easter approaches, to be quite honest, I’m really looking forward to a rich frothy cappuccino. I keep fantasizing that I’ll be preaching with a cup of coffee in my hand while people wonder why I’m so unusually happy. But it’s been a pretty hard month. I don’t say that in a “woe is me” sort of way, but just to say that it’s been hard. But what’s mitigated the thirst, or at least helped me to get through it, is the thought that I’m giving up something that is really a rather arbitrary pleasure for the God who has been immeasurably gracious to me. In other words, I didn’t have to do this, because it’s not like I feel like I should be giving it up anyways; God never asked me to do it. And so really, it’s just an act of devotion I chose to do. There’s nothing satisfying about that thought, nothing self-congratulatory about it, just a straight-forward thought.
I think when Easter comes, I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk away particularly refreshed spiritually. I’m not sure I’ll be bragging to everyone about the wonderful benefits of fasting. In fact, I think I’ll probably soon forget that I even gave up anything for 40 days. But I’ll have done it. And I will have done it as an act of worship. It will be unspectacular, but I think it will be just fine.