So, my first 5 days of Lent started out wonderful…. with me being sicker than a dog.
I woke up Wednesday morning without a voice and by the afternoon I was so weak I could do little more than lay on the sofa and feel sorry for myself. I was scheduled to speak at a women’s conference on Saturday, as well as lead worship at th e start of the day. So I did whatever I could not to talk in order to save my voice.
Saturday morning came and I made it through, though not sounding great at least I had some voice. But after leading worship for 30 minutes, then giving a 45 minutes workshop twice I promptly went home and crashed. When I woke up I was starving (as well as feeling a bit sorry for myself that I wasn’t at my peak that morning in front of over 100 local women). I heated up some leftovers and made a decision: to open and drink that Diet Dr. Pepper I had on the door in my fridge.
Let me back up:
I gave up coffee and soda for Lent this year. Soda is a common thing for me to give up – I drink far too much of it, it’s expensive and it’s bad for you anyway. This is the first time I’ve felt I needed to give up coffee. I’m not a “need a cup every day” kind of person. But I do find myself gravitating toward to more often than I have in the past, so I added it to the list.
So… back to Saturday. I opened that can of soda, heard that fizz of carbonation, and thought about Lent. Even before I open the can, as I was puttering around the kitchen making myself a plate of food, I kept thinking “Will I or won’t I? Should I or shouldn’t I? What does giving something up for Lent really mean, anyway? I’m not sure I really care that I stick to this anyway.”
I took the first few bites of food and felt this almost sizzle-like feeling in my mouth. I wanted that soda. So I took a drink.
And it was disgusting.
I hadn’t had soda since Tuesday, and my taste-buds had already adjusted. Each time I’ve given up soda for Lent in the past it’s been hard to go back because it simply tastes so syrupy-sweet and decidedly saccharin. I had to ask myself why, when there was tea and water available to me, that soda was where I went for my “default”? And I can’t really explain it… other than to say there is this satisfaction that happens in my brain when I take me first few drinks of any kind of carbonation.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know where I’m going with this.
Everyone, in one way or another, has a way they comfort themselves. For some it’s taking to a certain friend. For some it’s certain kinds of food or exercise. (I had a roommate in seminary who worked out 3 hours a day.) Some people like a good nap or watching a movie as a form of comfort… maybe it’s reading a great book with a great cup of tea in your hand. I realized that soda had clearly become a form of that for me. I felt bad. I wanted to feel better. I think soda can do that for me. What was humbling (though not nearly humbling enough, for my great pride got in the way) for me was knowing that I have a much greater source of comfortable available to me. And this, my friends, is why we celebrate Lent. To discover our idols, knock them off their pedestals and put what rightly belongs on the pedestal in the first place: God.
The God of great comfort is waiting in the wings, wanting so badly to be the one I run to when I need comfort, satisfaction, and well, just to feel better. And I am choosing soda instead? What is wrong with me? It is in these kinds of revelatory moments that the devastation from the Fall brings me to my knees. I weep and mourn for the brokenness in my heart and in the world.
But as the season of Lent doesn’t last forever… neither did the Fall. Jesus is redeeming the world, our hearts, and his people. May I not only live in the light of that fact, but learn to live in the light of his willingness and love for comforting me when I need it the most.
O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall
-Isaiah 25: 1-4