Me: No, thanks.
RP (weird look): But you love coffee...
Me: Yep, but I gave it up for Lent
RP: Oh...Okay...wait... Aren't you Baptist?
RP: I didn't think Baptists practiced Lent?
Me: Well, most don't but I started observing Lent in College and really enjoy the experience.
RP (confused look): ...ookaay.
What is Lent?
Lent is a period of prayer, pentance, repentance and self denial which runs from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday.
Why do I choose to practice Lent when it is not a practice observed by the denomination I am a part of?
I choose to observe Lent because I think it is a very personal way to reflect on my own Faith and how easy it is to let the day to day fuzz distract me from my personal walk with Christ. The self denial part of Lent causes me just enough discomfort to constantly remind me of sacrifice. My sacrifice maybe small in contrast to the BIG picture, but I try to choose something that is big enough in my life to make me take notice. So, No I am not the 'right' denomination but, this minor issue aside, I truly see the value in denying myself a small pleasure in order to help me focus on a much bigger Sacrifice.
So what did I choose to sacrifice this year? Coffee sweet, sweet coffee....
A little background will probably help you understand why this is a big deal. I love coffee. I truly LOVE coffee and for me it isn't just for breakfast, although 40oz before noon isn't a stretch. I enjoy coffee with breakfast, then on the way to work and then when I am at work how better to survive a 2-3 hour meeting? Coffee does the trick every time. Then the 3pm droops rear their ugly head and a coffee beverage fixes the problem every time. And that is just Monday - Friday, on Saturday and Sunday I should probably just walk around with an IV drip and save myself the dirty mugs. Heck I even like a little coffee poured on a hot biscuit with a little butter and brown sugar. (don't knock it until you have tried it)
So to quit, cold turkey, 41 days ago (not that I am counting) was a BIG deal, not in the big picture, but in my picture it was huge.
In the beginning, I was most concerned with the side effects of quitting, because obviously I wasn't an occasional user, so how bad were the first few days going to be? Was I going to walk around half asleep and half blind with a withdrawal headache? Oh, what was I thinking. But wait! I am not giving up caffeine SO surely I can offset these side effects, Right? Wrong, I probably could have if I liked any other caffeinated drink but the sad, sad truth is I drink water and coffee, and basically in equal portions. So headaches were bearable and the fog has lifted sssslllooowwwlllyyy. But the side effect that shocked me most wasn't' physical, it was mental. The cravings were awe inspiring and are STILL awe inspiring. The times I just thought about, dreamed about and even on occasion almost picked up and drank an abandoned cup of coffee truly shocked me. Weird Right? Well sort of but not really. I chose to give up something that I would miss for this reason. Something that, in this season of Lent, would make enough of impression on me that my minor version of sacrifice would serve it's purpose well. AND boy did I hit the nail on the head! With each craving...each internal thought or external question I am reminded of the ultimate sacrifice that was made for me.
I am not expected or asked to participate in Lent but I can honestly tell you each time I do my faith is strengthened. Not through external influence but rather a internal dialogue that goes something like this:
WOW! That coffee smells SO good....Oh just one cup on Sundays. Sundays are supposed to be free days! no. no. no. 46 days...! Emily 46 days...! You can live without the shakes and dragon breath for 46 days! Lord please give me the strength to make this small, PUNY, sacrifice for 46 days!! Oh! And while I am talking to you please remember that LJ needs your strength today and EJ has been struggling with a temper and SJ has a really important meeting today and OH! Yeah please forgive me for the childish tantrum I had this morning, I really need you to help me with my temper...I don't know where EJ gets it....
See the flow? It starts with an Earthly craving that is followed with a plea for strength and then the craving is redirected in a Heavenly way.
Lent isn't about denomination. It is about allowing God to use a small part of our day to day life to transform our mind and hearts in a very big way.
Who would have thought coffee could transform my prayer life?!?!
For the record...On Saturday Morning I will be drinking and GREATLY enjoying the biggest cup of coffee you have ever seen!!!