Pensacola, Florida. 2018 - Five years ago tomorrow - Ash Wednesday - I gave up drinking coffee for Lent. That feels like a million years ago and yesterday - handy reminder that life's a blink.
Before last weekend, I didn't know Mardi Gras was such a rip-roaring hootenanny in my new hometown, and due to the women in high garters and fellas tossing shiny gold beads, it's probably a lot more popular than Lent.
But, if you want to grow big interesting fruit on your tree this year, Lent makes amazing fertilizer. Here's what I mean.
Mineola, Texas 2013 - For the past 20 years I have consumed 3-5 cups of coffee every day. For the past 11 days, I have consumed none. I’m fasting it for Lent. I gave up something I love, in preparation for something I love more.
Does that mean I love Jesus more than coffee? What a weird way to think of it. Usually those two things are kept in separate containers and allowed to mingle only on Sundays.
Three years ago, I decided that separation wasn’t working for me anymore. I wandered as far as I reasonably could before admitting I was lost and should turn back to find another way. I spent years saying and doing whatever I wanted and inventing theology to rationalize my behavior. My life wasn’t bad but my soul was sick. I had fun. Not joy.
There were two reasons Jesus wasn’t part of my life.
1. I didn’t like how many Christians behaved.
2. I wanted to do whatever I wanted.
Sam and I spent last weekend at our ranch in West Texas. It is the place I surrendered my smart-mouth and picked up The Bible. It’s where I learned about discipline and how much better my life works when it’s about Jesus and not me. It’s where I wrote 2/3 of my book with a never-empty cup of steaming, heavily cream and sugared coffee at my right hand.
So, West Texas without coffee, is like baseball without hot dogs, but there’s no way I can cave on this one. I never thought much about fasting or why somebody would bother. But now I get it.
Every morning when I walk by my coffee pot, I experience actual physical longing. So I whine and count the days until Easter when I can have it back.
But every time the longing hits, I imagine the fully divine Jesus, stuck here for 33 years trying to teach limited, harassed, confused, arrogant, stubborn humans like me how to live. How he must have counted the minutes until Easter.
The fabulous Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan explains what Jesus gave up in The King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus:
The Trinity is utterly different. Instead of self-centeredness, the Father, The Son and the Spirit are characterized in their very essence by mutually self-giving love. No person in the Trinity insists that the others revolve around him; rather each of them voluntarily circles and orbits around the others….If this is ultimate reality, if this is what the God who made the universe is like, then this truth bristles and explodes with life-shaping, glorious implications for us.
My life is not easier now than it was three years ago, it’s harder. But I’m climbing onto new plateaus all the time, taking in views I would have killed for three years ago. They are delightful and surprising because I didn’t engineer them, God did. I just set my crappy, old baggage down and started climbing.
I have many pitches left. Fasting coffee is just one of them.