That Which We Deny

17 Mar

“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.”  ~ Liane Moriarty, The Husband’s Secret

When I was very young, the Sisters at St. Mary’s Grade School introduced us to Lent and to the tradition of giving up something for Lent.  Give up something?  Are you kidding?  As we grappled with the thought, a few of my classmates got huge smiles on their faces.  “I’m going to give up spinach.”  “I’m going to give up liver and onions.”  “I’m going to give up prune juice.”  On and on we blurted out the hated things that we were so generously willing to “give up.”

Our faces changed from happy and delighted to crestfallen when Sister told us that we had to give up something we liked and that it would be more preferable to give up something that was our favorite.  The first choked response was from someone who blurted out, “Forever?!”  We, at least, felt better when we found out it was only until Easter but then we calculated the days involved.  Gosh, we had to give up something for a hundred years?  Easter felt that far away to really young children, don’t you know.

The practice of giving things up during the years has always been accompanied by whatever we gave up staring us in the face and calling to us in the silence.  We could practically hear our favorite candy or soft drink saying, “Go ahead.  Take a bite.  Have a swallow.”  That which we deny often speaks loudly to us in an attempt to get us to break our Lenten promises.

As I got older, I realized that it was not the things denied that spoke so loudly.  No.  It was the devil speaking through those denied yet favorite things.  The devil wants us to break down and have that which we have denied ourselves in the hopes that we will give up our entire Lenten promises right then and there.  It doesn’t have to happen that way.

If you have promised to deny yourself something and you break that resolution, don’t give up.  Start again.  That will absolutely ruin the devil’s day.  He will have to try harder because we will understand what he is doing after he fooled us the first time.  So, don’t give up.  Be prepared for temptation.  Hold firm.  God will give you the help you need if you but ask.

FAITH ACTION:  Make sure that which you have denied yourself for Lent is not taking more of a hold on you than is healthy.