Lent Reflections

As this Lenten season came to a close, I was struck by the thought of how my simple sacrifice of coffee is supposed to symbolize the incredibly generous gift that God gave to me- His Son's life.

Here I was, complaining and moaning about how much I miss coffee and it's so hard and blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile Jesus willingly allowed himself to be beaten to be a bloody pulp and nailed to cross just so I could even HAVE the luxury of drinking an espresso latte everyday.

I'm sorta disgusted by me.

I'll admit, the first couple weeks, it was all about me. I changed up my morning routine, found a substitute in hot tea and soy chai lattes but still missed that super hot, strong, intense flavor. More than that, I missed the many social events I seem to create around a cup of coffee- girl dates, writing time, downtown walks, etc.
I spent time reading the Bible and tried to focus on the fact I was doing this for a reason, but most of the time I didn't think about Jesus at all.

I didn't think about how my need for coffee was so small, so teeny tiny and so NOTHING compared to the gift I was receiving.
I just thought about how my life would be harder. Or different. Or less convenient.

I could blame my humanness.
I'm a sinner.
Naturally inclined to make everything about ME.

During our Easter Sermon, Pastor Paul said something about how we, as people, find ways to even twist the Gospel around to make it about us. Praising Jesus for the sake of ourselves.

I sort of feel like that sums up my Lent experience.

I didn't feel like I gained a greater connection to God over the course of 40 days.
I actually just found it was a lot easier than I expected to give up coffee.
I didn't need it as much as I thought.

But on Easter Sunday, I got up, put on my tennis shoes and walked my dog to the coffee shop for a big, black coffee.
And guess what? It wasn't as satisfying as I thought it'd be.
I expected to feel this sigh of relief, 'Finally! Coffee!' but it didn't taste any better or worse and I realized, somewhat embarrassingly, it's just coffee.

I think, at the beginning of Lent, I envisioned feeling this big empty space, normally filled with coffee, that would magically be occupied with the Holy Spirit. I mean, obviously! That was the point right? Give something up and free that space for Jesus?

In my first post on the 7 experiment, I talk about that space. About using it for something more spirit-focused and intentional.

I did some of that- changing up my morning routine with daily devotions and praying out loud. I had already been completing morning devotions, however, I began to use that time more deliberately- not rushing and making it a priority.

But what I really learned is this:

A spiritual fast is less about the actual thing you are giving up and more about freeing yourself from anything that distracts you from relationship with Jesus.

No matter what the 'thing' is that you are fasting from, what you are really doing is saying 'I'm going to eliminate a diversion that I have given too much power to.'

And that- I didn't do. I didn't rest in that empty space and just be in relationship with Jesus. I didn't use those cravings to refocus my mind on prayer and meditation. I just found other stuff to occupy the time and fill all the spaces and then praised myself for not drinking coffee for 40 days.

I think there is power in emptiness.
I think there is power in the elimination of stuff in my life.
I think there is power in resting in a specific quiet moment of clarity.

I'm not sure any of this makes sense to you, dear readers, but in my mind I've learned a valuable lesson about what it means to really do without.

It DOESN'T mean exchanging one for thing for another. Or finding a different thing to pass the time of the old thing.

It DOES mean clearing space and leaving that space empty. Wide open. Willing and ready for something bigger than a hot drink.

How was your Lent experience? Do you feel like you really connected in relationship with Jesus or, like me, do you feel like you need a little more practice?