On the very long list of things I don’t give up for Lent every year, Guinness holds a special spot. It’s not that I’m out every weekend picking up a six pack of its creamy goodness. In fact, if ever I drink a six pack in twelve months that’s a big year for me. I just don’t want to be denied if the mood strikes when I have a few extra bucks in my pocket. I like to leave my options open.
As Ash Wednesday was rolling up on me faster than usual this year, I scrambled about trying to find the perfect gift to give up this year. God’s good gift of Guinness remained on the long list of things I didn’t give up again, but I did go with chocolate this time. I just wasn’t in the mood this year to give up something I’m really drawn to and I decided to take the easy way out. The spiritual snob in me gave way to the spiritual sloth in me and I went with the chocolate cliché as I settled in for the Ash Wednesday service and a very long Lent.
As the faithful streamed from the pews and shuffled down the aisles during the service I stood back and considered my options. There’s nothing worse than getting the Rorschach test reject blotted on your forehead so I watched to see who was doing good work. I could swear I saw one lady was standing back after blessing each congregant and taking the time to inspect her work in the light. There was a couple of times I think that if she could’ve washed her ashy work off with Holy water and started over, she would have. I dutifully made my way into her line and humbly thought about my death as she went to work on me. And then I pulled out my phone to find if I got what I was aiming for. I felt pretty good about the shape of the cross I got so I hit send on the phone and texted the picture to my wife. Finally got the cross I’ve been wanting. It’s gonna be a good lent.
Things were all fine and dandy until I skipped into the grocery store the next day and realized I was surrounded by Snickers, Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s peanut butter cups and those Cadbury Eggs, the kind with the creamy center. Man, oh man I love those things. I never realized how much chocolate I eat at this time of year. I live with me every day and I don’t even know myself that well. The easy cross I had picked out to carry was beginning to dig into my shoulder.
A little light of Grace flashed into my eyes and lit up my mind, as I longed to grab a three pack of those cream filled eggs. I don’t even know how weak I am or understand how much Grace I’ve been given daily by God. To be able to say thank you God is Grace in itself. Where I am weak, He is strong and I’ve foolishly assumed His strength was mine even in the littlest temptations.
I’m struggling this year. Sunday’s can’t get here quick enough now. Not only for God’s Good gift of the Eucharist and the Grace I get from Him but because I really like peanut butter cups a bunch too apparently. It’s such a little trouble but it is my trouble just as your troubles are yours. Troubles big or small, deep or wide, God knows us better than we know ourselves and He’s carrying us along even when we think we know all the options and have made the right choices and that’s why we’re doing so good. It only took me giving up something silly to find out how weak I really am and see a little clearer how much He’s given up for me.
Since that night, when I went down the aisle and grabbed what I thought was the perfect small cross, my prayer has been; “Heavenly Father, please give me the Grace, strength, desire and will to overcome my troubles, especially the ones I scoff at.”