In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year
from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation
of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for
the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of
Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates
in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
According to the Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent
forty days fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry,
where he endured temptation by Satan. Thus, Lent is described as being
forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days
This practice is common to much of Christendom, being celebrated by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Anglicans. Lent is increasingly being observed by other denominations as well, even such groups that have historically ignored Lent, such as Baptists and Mennonites.
I observed Lent this year for the first time ever. I've made unsuccesful attempts before in years past, when the thing I chose to sacrifice was self-serving in some way. One year, I gave up soft drinks thinking I'd shed a few pounds. Another year I gave up fast-food for the same reason, only to fail miserably after a few weeks. As a Baptist, Lent is not something that's widely observed in the church. According to the information above, it's mostly practiced among Catholics, Lutherans, Etc.
But this year, in the days leading up to the 40 day advent season, I felt a want or need to truly observe Lent this year, as a way to center my focus and prepare my heart for Holy Week and Easter.
I considered several things to give up, but I quickly fell into that same old line of thinking of what can I give up that will ultimately benefit me. Sad. I prayed for some direction, and days before Ash Wednesday, I knew what it would be. My beloved coffee.
I am not a life long coffee drinker. I started drinking coffee when Mattie was about a two years old because Matthew drank it, and got me started on it. Most addictions start from a partner's influence, right? I quickly became addicted and have had to have my morning fix every single day. For a long while, I drank two huge mugs each morning (around 40 oz of coffee), but I eventually cut that down to one large mug.
When I became pregnant with Presley, I completey cut out coffee for my entire pregnancy, and it wasn't difficult at that time except for the first couple of days. With both of my pregnancies, I craved chocolate milk in large quantities. I would drink large, large amounts each and every morning until I delivered my babies, and after that I can't stand the sight or smell of it. Pregnancy is too weird. My only explanation for not needing/wanting coffee during pregnancy is that my body was distracted by and/or needed the chocolate milk. Once Presley was born, I was back hard on my daily habit due to sleep deprivation, and I eventually had to cut back again because I was drinking way too much.
Lately, I've been drinking around 20 oz. each morning. I don't drink it black....I put some Splenda and Fat-Free French Vanilla Coffee-Mate. I neeeeeeed my coffee each morning. I don't do anything until I go straight to the coffee pot and at least have my full cup in hand, then I can function.
Physically, the first couple of days were very hard. My afternoons were filled with bad caffeine headaches. In the days after that, the headaches subsided, but I still would crave that morning cup. Each and every morning when I woke up, my first thought was "coffee!". And then, "oh yeah, no coffee". I'm not exagerating when I say that each and every one of the forty days of Lent I thought about my coffee several times a day and how bad I wanted it.
But from the very first day, I decided that when my thoughts would turn to coffee (which was often), I would immediately redirect them to the Cross. I would focus my thoughts on how weak my flesh was, and how much I need my Savior. I would think on the sacrifice made for me, and offer silent thanksgiving for that. I would praise God for loving me enough to sacrifice his Son for me. I would thank Jesus for the redemption he provided me. I honestly took every craving as an opportunity to give thanks.I'm reading this book right now, which talks about transforming your life and finding true joy through Eucharisteo. And in this experience of my life, I can say it's absolutely true.
What started out as frustration with my deprivation turned into an advent filled with thanksgiving toward my Redeemer, which in turn filled me with joy. I can't say that of any past year. I have never entered an Easter season with a heart as full as this year. My heart and mind were in tune praising and worshipping Him like no other time in my life.
All that to say, Lent "worked" for me and I highly recommend it to you if you're looking for a way to prepare your heart and mind for Easter. And for the record, as soon as my feet hit the floor this morning, I headed straight for the coffeepot, and brewed a pot. I had no intention of giving it up forever, and this morning was sweet as I drank the first cup of forty days.