Monday, March 5, 2012

Lent


It's Lent, a time of year for personal sacrifice; the time of year when I typically give up one of my favorite foods for 40 days and do strange things like tearing the kitchen apart looking for a “legal” substitute to satisfy a craving. (By the way, carob doesn't really taste much like real chocolate and nothing can really take the place of the wonder known as caffeine.)

This year I've given up sugar (something my children cannot fathom), and diet pop (soda to those of you outside of Michigan). So far, there have only been a few instances when I was tempted to sell my first born for a sip of Diet-Rite Orange Soda. Twelve days in, and my symptoms of withdrawal haven't been as severe, as say when I gave up chocolate during a stressful semester of law school, or caffeine during my junior year of college. One of these years, I'll learn why I have a masochistic tendency to give up what I like the most. Life would be easier if I gave up tofu.

Obviously, Lent is far more significant than me not fulfilling my every food-driven whim and stuffing myself with sugar. It is far more significant than my family watching me climbing the walls for 40 days because I'm totally addicted to artificial sweeteners. Pretty much everyone knows that Lent is instead the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday when Christians contemplate the sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross in payment for our sins.

Lent then ends with the celebration on Easter of Jesus' resurrection, not traditionally me gorging myself with cans of icy cold Pepsi sweetened with Splenda. The theory goes that some people give up a favorite item during this time to better understand or contemplate Jesus' death. When I think of Lent, I'm frequently reminded of the movie “Chocolat,” where citizens of a small French town are tempted by a decadent pastry shop filled with luscious desserts that opens in their town during Lent. I imagine myself as one of the townspeople, nose pressed against the cold pastry shop window, drooling over the chocolate drenched croissants and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. Wait, what was I saying? Sorry, the mere thought of chocolatey goodness is distracting....

But does Jesus really care if I give up drinking nasty artificial sweetener and carbonated water out of aluminum cans? Compared to Jesus' huge sacrifice, giving up sugar and diet pop is trivial at best. Jesus being tempted by Satan, it is not. (Luke 4:2) How can one even compare willingly dying a brutal death to give humanity the chance for salvation and me not eating sugary food that's bad for me anyway? Despite the huge discrepancy in the level of sacrifice, I still cannot even muster an ounce of the grace and composure of Jesus on the cross. Give me a few days without sugar and pop and I'm whining to anyone who will listen on Facebook about my terrible sacrifice and on Easter, my great will power evaporates and I'm lying on the couch with a pop/sugar/chocolate induced belly ache. So how can such a frivolous sacrifice do anything at all?

For me, Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is so huge and amazing that it is somewhat difficult for me to wrap my brain around. In my relatively easy life, making myself understand the difficulty of a merely small sacrifice helps me better understand the magnitude of Jesus' huge sacrifice. When I willingly deny a comfort that my body craves, I am better able to appreciate Jesus' suffering. I also tend to think more about Jesus' sacrifice with every craving and temptation and spend more time asking Him for the strength I need to get through the day.

Some may think that focusing on food cravings during this time is silly, but it's always been a special time that brings me closer to Jesus. Sometimes during my hectic life with three little kids, I need something as silly as craving a can of pop to remind myself to take a moment and remember Jesus' gift of grace.

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