Normally, I don't participate in Lent. It's not that I have something against it, I just usually forget until my other friends start talking about what they gave up or people are running around with Ashes on their foreheads. Then I remember I was supposed to give something up, too late now. This year, I had a number of friends commenting about Fat Tuesday, so I remembered in time to pray & think about what to give up for Lent. Coffee. Yes, that would be a good thing to give up for Lent. It is something that I enjoy a great deal, but that I do not need to survive. It is something that I would miss if I didn't have it. In short, to give up coffee was going to really be a sacrifice.
These are the things I learned from participating in Lent this year:
1. Even if my friends or enemies don't know what's going on with me, Satan does. And so does God.
See, I had a friend say something to me that was very hurtful, but it was intended in the best way. This person really, really had good intentions with what they said. However, they do not see the world the same way I do. We "live in different worlds" or at least that is how I try to explain it to friends. Anyway, this had me reflecting on what was said & talking to others that I trust. Then, a few of my friends posted articles or videos that helped me to work through the topic in question. I'm still working through this particular critique of how I live, but the reflection is good.
2. When I willingly give up things for the purpose of drawing closer to God, He is faithful to surprise me with His provision for my needs.
I went for 3 days at the start of Lent without coffee, tea or much other caffeine. Naturally, I got the caffeine withdrawal headache. I tried to "tough it out." But by Friday afternoon I was just annoyed with everything so I brewed some hot tea and enjoyed that in the evening. I did not have another withdrawal headache. I was planning to use hot tea in the mornings to get me going, but I never needed it. I was afraid that I was going to wear out the snooze button on my alarm clock. Nope, didn't happen. No one was yelled at for being near me before 10am, nor were there any other short fuse kinds of things. All in all, I was surprised at how well my temperament remained level.
3. Peace & Patients often go hand-in-hand. When I am patient with myself and others, it seems that peace flows easily into my heart.
It was not like I was hiding in my room under the covers all day, every day. I was working, and not just my normal 8-5 schedule. I worked a project on-site at the customer's facility. We left the shop at 5:30 am & returned at about 6:30 pm. The job did not go smoothly. It was one thing after another that was going wrong. And a 2 & 1/2 day project turned into a 4 and 1/2 day project. Normally, there would be a report left with the customer when we left, but I had no time to finish up. The rest of the crew had to get on the road so they could get home to leave again for their next project. We had new people coming to work that I needed to train, but I was unfamiliar with the material. And I didn't even have all of the materials I needed to train the new folks. Yet, through it all I did not lose my cool. I did not go home stressed or angry. Again, another surprise at God's providing for my needs.
4. Easter was much more exciting! I anticipated its arrival in a way that I have not done since I was a child.
That's right. I was EXCITED that Easter Sunday was only 1 week, 3 days away. And the happy thought of, "today is the last day I have to skip the coffee!" was one of my earliest thoughts Saturday morning. This time it was not about chocolate bunnies, candy eggs & a wonderful Easter lunch spread. This time it was all about those freshly ground coffee beans from Ethiopia!!!! But I also found myself getting excited about the truth of Christ's Resurrection. "Today is a day of Celebration!!!" I thought as I enjoyed my first cup of coffee.
5. Easter now brings to mind the sacrifices of Christ, not just His teachings about Sacrifice, but about the reality of His leaving heaven & the full presence of God to live here on earth.
I think sometimes I take it for granted that Jesus was in heaven, with God... and He left that experience to come to earth. He had to become completely helpless as a baby, and learn to walk & be hungry. Mary & Joseph had to run for their lives to Egypt to protect a baby Jesus from those that wanted to kill him. And ultimately, He was rejected by the people that He had come to save, was beaten mercilessly & killed in a horrific way. All so that I and others could be allowed into the full presence of God. But here I am complaining about not drinking coffee for 40 days. I am so spoiled!!!
All things considered, Lent was a very positive experience for me this year. I recommend it to anyone that is brave enough to try something new. And I commend those of you who do this every year. You were an inspiration to me to try something new, and I thank you for your inspiration.