Originally posted March 23, 2011. On failing at Lent. :)

Zen Waterphoto © 2007 Frédéric DUPONT | more info (via: Wylio)So here it is, two weeks into 40 Days of Water. I guess I should tell you bright and cheerful things about my experience… that I’m sleeping better, my caffeine withdrawal headaches are gone, I’m even making it to work on time (!) and generally feeling awesome. Water only isn’t such a bad deal, and I feel honored and humbled to know I’m a small part of a movement to help bring clean water to Africa. All of that would actually be true.

It’s also true that Lent is a season of making efforts in some fragile, flailing attempt to honor Christ’s sacrifice, but in this yearly quest to be more like Jesus, there are some things I end up learning and re-learning every year.

So here’s Lesson 1: You’re only human.

In the past, giving up one small thing wasn’t such a big deal. I mean I missed it and all, but I could swap my Starbucks for Earl Grey and call it a day. Giving up everything though, has been such a shift in so many habits.

One day in the first week, I went to pick up coffee for some friends at work. No big deal.

Except I was sleepy and moody and just wanted something to quell my nerves and that sick feeling and get me through the afternoon. Is it stupid to admit I was weakened by something so minor? Because yes, I was.

My internal dialogue kicked in, the conversation going something like this:

Man, I want coffee.

No, don’t! Remember Africa? You’re going to deny two people a year’s supply of water???
I know! I didn’t forget. I… I’ll still count the money.
It’s the principle of the thing. You didn’t give anything up.
But I didn’t take my Sabbath or anything. I’ll repent and count double then!
You selfish dirtbag.

Something like that.

So the circle goes, appetite vs conscience, humanness vs my lofty spiritual goals, all the way up to the counter.
I tugged my sleeve over my 40 Days bracelet
and sheepishly ordered a tall iced coffee.

There I was, driving back to work depressed at my moral failure (but perking up after the caffeine), until I realized that, once again, it has nothing to do with the thing I tried to give up. I was in a wrestling match with the tension of selfless sacrifice and prideful self-righteousness.

Is it borderline blasphemy to say I pictured God chuckling and saying, “oh Jen, get over yourself and enjoy your coffee”? I sure hope not.

Sacrifice is hard. Christlikeness is a near impossibility. At least, it is if I try to do it on my own. I delight in freedom from works and legalism and condescending glares, but sometimes it’s good to impose a little law on myself as a reminder.

I am bought with a price. I am being made new. I am running, struggling, condemning myself to serve pigs when back home I have a loving Father waiting to welcome me as a daughter, not a slave.

Yes, I know it’s only a stupid cup of coffee. I know it’s not a sin, but merely breaking my little self-made rules and in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal at all. But it did teach me something, perhaps not to be so hard on myself. That if I fail in my commitment, I can shake it off and start again.

If you’re participating in 40 Days, sacrificing something else this season, or even just catching yourself struggling against your vices and demons, know this: you’re only human. You’re a work in progress. You will fall and you will fail, but you are precious and loved, and that’s why holiness is an ongoing pursuit and in the end, grace remains to catch you.

And nothing is more comforting than that.

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