I told Jefferson this morning that tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent. "What is Lent?" he asked, to which I replied, "the forty days before Easter." I then tried to explain how people often choose something to give up for the Lenten period to honor the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Jefferson replied, "O.K., I'll give up being King, because Jesus is the real King." I said that sounded good, but in spite of the fact that that morning he had been wearing his Burger King crown and had announced that he was king and therefore overruled mom and was not going to school that day because kings don't go to school, I reminded him that in all truth, he wasn't king, so that wouldn't really be a sacrifice. He said, "O.K., I'll give up fits." I thought this sounded much better... but then said maybe he shouldn't promise something to God that he had almost no chance of achieving. So we left it at he should think of something and get back to me...
I decided to give up chocolate and fast food for Lent. These are two vices of mine that when I am caught in their grasp just get worse with time - I crave more of both more often. So this is a healthy choice. But is it honoring God? Is it in line with the kind of sacrifice Jesus made? Can a middle-aged housewife's attempt to give up some binge foods, while leaving others like donuts as totally optional, really be much of a sacrifice at all? And am I doing it for Jesus' sake, or for my own? Does it matter?
I struggle to comprehend Jesus. I struggle to comprehend God and the universe and Christianity and spirituality and all that jazz. Lately it seems I'm especially ping ponging between wondering if it's all just a hoax, just a bunch of stories patterned after earlier stories made up to assuage our deepest fears, answer our most basic questions, and give us boundaries about how to live so that everything seems a little less chaotic (for those of us prone to anxiety, rules actually feel safe much of the time). I'm sure having seen Bill Maher's "Religulous" recently has played into that - for all his diffident, arrogant comments and attitude toward organized religion, the questions he raised are ones I've often asked myself. On the other side of the table (to get back to the ping pong metaphor), I think about my own personal experiences and feelings - specifically about how I felt the day I was doing laundry and basically said, "O.K., Jesus, if you're real help me here," and realized Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine" was playing on the radio. I felt then and there as if a warm spirit had come into the room and was with me. I really did. I felt that same spirit, the feeling as if someone (Jesus) had slung their arms around me and was sitting with me the night I was lying in a UVa hospital bed as a hospital chaplain was praying with me because I was about to lose my baby girl. I hadn't asked the chaplain to come, wasn't even sure I wanted him there, but when he prayed and asked that Jesus walk with me, I swear I felt Him near me, with his arm around my shoulder, and I did not feel alone. No one can take those feelings away from me, and that is why the ping pong game continues. My intellect argues against faith all the time, but my soul longs for it, and I just *feel* like God is there, like there is something bigger than me, bigger than all of us, that links us together. The stories of Jesus feel good to me. Would I like to be someone who just believed everything in Christianity and felt secure in my faith - heck, YES! Am I one of those people? No. But God knows that. Maybe I'm supposed to be like that. Maybe in the questioning and the arguing and the rebelling and the doubting and the craving and the fearing and all of that mess, maybe in all of that God is working on me, waiting for me to come out of my toddler years, waiting for me to grow into relationship with Him. Or maybe it's a bunch of hocus pocus. I don't know. This inner argument always reminds me of the book "The Life of Pi," where at the end you find out all may not have been as it seemed, and the question is asked, "Well, which version do you prefer?"
There's no real point to this blog entry today, no sudden epiphany, no lightning bolt on the head. Is sacrificing chocolate and fast food (and recommitting to 10,000 steps a day, which I also promised) really a good Lenten vow? I kind of think so. I know it will be better for my health, and I think God wants me, wants all of us, to be healthy - physically, emotionally, mentally, creatively, lovingly, spiritually healthy. Is it on par with the sacrifice Jesus made? Of course not. Nothing is. But at least Lent has me thinking about it all again.