Perhaps it’s because Lent is nearly over and the joyous season of Easter is on the horizon. Perhaps it’s because my Lenten sacrifice seemed easier than I had expected, and unfortunately didn’t automatically make me a better person. Perhaps it’s because I hurt my knee and squashed any chance of entering the two races I planned to run this spring. No matter the root of my increased self-awareness, the result is that I have spent a great deal of time and energy this week contemplating my new goals for the spring, the fall, the future.
I gave up sugar in my coffee for Lent. I like my coffee with half-and-half (not plain milk) plus 1½ teaspoons of sugar. To me, no sugar meant genuine sacrifice. My immediate family knows I’ve given up sugar, but I made a concerted effort not to blab about it to everyone I know—the whole “don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing” philosophy. My hope was that this little sacrifice would have more impact if I didn’t tell everyone. The unsweetened coffee would be a daily reminder to offer my day for Christ and to love others more genuinely—in essence, to be sweeter. However, I still yelled at the children instead of calmly disciplining them. I still grumbled when other drivers on the road offended me. I still complained about people who failed to meet my expectations. This week has reminded me that my expectations for others are inconsequential and that my personal goals must be rooted in Christ.
Running and sweetened coffee are my two indulgences. I love to run. I am not fast and will never win any races, but the time out in nature feels so good to me. Also, my husband and daughter are both runners, so it’s an activity we discuss and revel in together. Recently, I ran my first five-miler and I was stoked! I just knew I could do the 10K race I was training to run a few weeks later. However, my enthusiasm got me in trouble. I tried to do too much too soon, and the five-miler was my last real run. Now I’m trying to rehab a knee injury. My aching knee reminds me that I can do nothing on my own, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Yesterday, I went to confession in preparation for Holy Week and Easter. The Franciscan Friar, acting In Persona Christi, reminded me that Jesus is my best friend. Jesus spoke to me directly through the priest. He said that I must go to Him with all of the good and all of the bad. As a best friend, I realize, this week especially, I must walk with Him on the road to Calvary.
As I sit on the couch, elevating and icing my knee while sipping unsweetened coffee, I ponder my Lenten journey. The Passion, like my coffee, is bitter. My body, like our Lord’s, is broken. In my very tiny sufferings, I must strive not to wallow and complain, but to triumph. I may not run races this spring, but I must still endeavor to love those around me more deeply. When I look at Jesus’ outstretched arms on the Cross, I realize how He wants me to love others — like they are He, my best friend.