Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent is not a competitive sport....

One of the reasons I decided to go back to giving up my daily pleasures of Diet Cokes and sweets was because in my early years of "doing Lent"--which I did on my own, outside of church--those little deprivations made me do a lot of soul-searching. Those were my "good Lents," if you will.

Once I got into church, I heard other people take a lot of ribbing about giving up chocolates or sodas---the implication was that these were not SERIOUS disciplines. That "real" Christians gave up things that mattered or---more important--took on new spiritual disciplines.

I'm sure that no one was TRYING to do spiritual one-upsmanship, but that was the message I got. So, for the most part, I stopped giving stuff up and started trying to take stuff on.

As a result, I haven't had a "good Lent" in years. I'm a mother, own my own business, and now commute to be a wife too. (And I have to fit the dog in there somewhere.) I have finally realized that taking stuff on is--quite simply--a recipe for spiritual failure at this point in my life.

(And before someone comes in here and starts giving me a pep-talk about not thinking of spiritual things in terms of "failure"...well, thanks, but don't worry. It's a figure of speech, you know?)

So I'm back to giving up the little things I really enjoy--and consume without thinking most of the time. I will not win any Olympic gold medals for my discipline--and I'm sure there are plenty of folks who will find my choices puerile (if I even bother to mention them, outside of the blogosphere). But I'm coming to understand that God is in EVERYTHING--even in the smallest and seemingly most insignificant choices I make.

To be honest, there is some discomfort in that. Who wants to think that God is interested in Every.Single.Thing you do? It sounds almost stalker-ish...

And yet...I grow more and more convinced that, in everything we do and every choice we make, God is there, calling to us. Calling us to the good--for ourselves, for others, and for the earth. Calling us to holiness--to be the people we were meant to be. Calling us into a relationship so total and--dare I say it?--erotic, that it makes sex look tame and boring.

That's a lot to lay on an unopened can of Diet Coke. But, for me, it's a start--or, more accurately, it's my little choice for this morning. This morning, I chose to write this blog post, rather than succumb to the temptation of going downstairs for the soda (even though I can hear it calling my name from here). I thought about God for the better part of the morning. And while I won't claim that I reached any Kama Sutra-type heights, I felt connected.

Somehow, I think that's what it's all about.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bite

I am a Diet Coke addict.

There, I confessed it.

When the Empress was very little, I was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The symptoms were such that I honestly felt as if I were having a heart attack. This was quite...disconcerting...for someone in her late 30s, with a family history of heart disease. (My paternal grandmother died of heart disease in her 50s.)

One of the things I had to do to deal with GERD was to give up soda. It was a terribly difficult thing for me, because I drank multiple cans a day---but for many years, I couldn't drink more than 3 sips of soda before I felt the tell-tale chest pains.

It tells you something about my addiction that I kept trying...

About a 18 months ago, I discovered that I could drink sodas again. I suspect it had to do with the fact that I COMPLETELY changed my life. I was no longer miserable, and apparently my body responded by lowering acid production. So I'm back up to my 3-4 cans-a-day Diet Coke habit.

What I love about Diet Coke is the bite.

It's not the taste. It's the "bite" of the carbonation that hooks me. And there is a lesson there, I'm afraid.

I love to bite. I love to argue, and even more than loving to argue, I love to win.

Tonight, as Dear Friend recited the liturgy for Ash Wednesday, I asked God to help me lose my love of the bite. I asked for a gentle spirit and a gentle and forgiving heart.

This is a hard request for someone who continually battles for justice for the marginalized. I have said many times that I wish Jesus hadn't said all that stuff about loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. It's so much FUN to eviscerate the people with whom you disagree! And, to be perfectly honest with you, I'm pretty damned good at it.

But biting doesn't achieve much, does it? All it does it CREATE enemies--and all *that* does is lengthen my prayer list!

I will never give up my passion for justice and the Gospel, but I have seen people who know how to advocate for the good without biting. I know that it is possible--and that it will take a miracle to achieve it in my case.

I am giving up Diet Coke for Lent--and hoping to give up the bite. In my case, it is a serious sacrifice for both. I ask for your prayers.