“Why did she give up wine for Lent? Polly was more sensible. She had given up strawberry jam. Cecilia had never seen Polly show more than a passing interest in strawberry jam, although now, of course, she was always catching her standing at the open fridge, staring at it longingly. The power of denial.”
Nothing is more desirable than that which has recently been denied. We know that from our New Year’s resolutions and, I imagine at this point in time, we are becoming acutely aware of that after beginning our Lenten resolutions. In Lent, we often give up things that we really like. The most popular are beverages (coffee, tea, and soda pop), candy (chocolates in any form) and other sweets (cakes, cookies and the like). When we give those items up, we discover a couple of things.
The first thing that we discover is that we are addicted. People who give up coffee, tea, and chocolate do not realize the physical dependency they have on caffeine. The first few days of giving those items up can be very grueling. Withdrawal from caffeine often causes intense headaches, irritability, and a decreased ability to focus.
The second thing that we discover is that we are weak people. Giving up favorite things plays on our minds. We become distracted. We might snap at people. We often are not our best selves because of the amount of attention we place on that which has been given up.
The third thing we discover, though, is that mortification ultimately helps us to hone in on what is truly important. After the ill effects of kicking caffeine withdrawal, after the second and third looking back at what was given up, we begin to dig deeper within ourselves for the strength that we need to hold firm to our resolve. Digging deeper leads us to the realizations that we cannot do things on our own. We really do need God’s help.
The moment we come to that conclusion, we are ready to proceed in earnest on our Lenten journey. We cannot possibly stay on the path if we think we are going to do it on our own. It is only after we come into contact with our weakness and our need that we can find the humility that we need to ask God to be with us. Without God, there is no hope. With God, anything is possible.
We have already set course. We are probably in the midst of discovering our weakness. The next step is to open up, admit our weakness, and ask God to come more fully into our lives.
FAITH ACTION: Pray for the grace to hold firm to your Lenten resolve.