When I was growing up, I thought Lent was just something Roman Catholics did—my friends gave up chocolate, and I judged them for being legalistic.
My church was clearly better—perfectly disconnected from the church calendar, our Holy Week was simply two Sunday services.
I had no idea what I was missing!
In college, a few friends challenged me to try Lent, but by “giving to” more than “giving up.” That year, I gave up 15 minutes of sleep, waking up early to trek down to the study lounge and do devotions, every day.
Since I didn’t have regular devotions, this jumpstarted a vital habit for my life.
But I didn’t really understand the impact of Lent on my life until my late twenties. I was planning to attend an Ash Wednesday service at the mainline church downtown, and had been praying about what to do this Lent.
And I felt called by God to give up coffee.
Well, as you can imagine, I went “all Moses” on God, arguing and justifying why giving up coffee just wasn’t right. But God was consistent, and by grace, I was obedient.
You see, I drank coffee in the morning, coffee in the afternoon, and decaf in the evening so I could sleep. It was my comfort food, my warm friend, my companion on chilly days.
And I went cold turkey.
And throughout Lent, when I wanted coffee in the morning, I thought about Jesus’ lifelong march to the cross.
When I craved an afternoon pick-me-up, I remembered Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected for me.
And in those long evenings, I realized that sacrificing coffee was nothing in comparison to Jesus letting go to become human and later be the ultimate sacrifice.
It was a long forty-six days. Before, I thought it was only forty, but I learned that I didn’t actually have to fast on Sundays because it’s the day of resurrection. I fasted all forty-six days not because I’m so self-controlled. No, it was because I knew that if I tasted coffee on a Sunday, Monday would be that much harder (though maybe, by doing that I was missing the point).
And giving up coffee was the best lead-in to Easter I ever experienced! I can still picture myself on Easter Sunday morning with that joyous cup of coffee in my hand, remembering the resurrection of Christ!
I’ve not been called since to give up coffee, and honestly, I hope that continues.
But I do miss how that particular fast made me think about Jesus.
What are you doing for Lent this year? It’s not too late to start!