I know how soon youth would fade and bloom perish, if, in the cup of bliss offered, but one dreg of shame, or one flavour of remorse were detected; and I do not want sacrifice, sorrow, dissolution – such is not my taste. I wish to foster, not to blight – to earn gratitude, not to wring tears of blood – no, nor of brine: my harvest must be in smiles, in endearments, in sweet.
I used to be a great martyr.
As a mother, I chose unnecessary and difficult things for myself and my children to do.
As a woman, I chose to be consistently underweight and underfed. I was hungry but believed it was my duty to be hungry, to remain small – in stature and in thought.
As a wife, I chose to serve my husband and honor him with my body. When I could not perform it was my fault, praying to be more and better while also remaining less and small.
As a citizen, I chose to follow the mainstream Christian worldview despite it’s lack of inclusion for me or for ones I love.
As a friend, i chose to whip myself with fault and blame for missing the smallest of things.
As a Christian, I had to suffer for Jesus. I had to berate myself for the smallest infraction, and every failure as a mother, a woman, a wife, a citizen and friend was married to my Christian duty and added to my unending list of demerits.
My Christian salvation was not life-giving, it was a death sentence. God demanded my holiness and nothing short of that would do. It was my responsibility to rise up, to meet the requirements, to earn my keep.
And all the while, I demanded this of others. For what we fall short of in ourselves, we project onto our people. Jealousy is a powerful educational tool.
And so, this past week I decided to embark on a Lenten fast. I didn’t put much thought into it, but I knew it was something I wanted to try. I didn’t feel called nor did I believe God’s love was hanging on the line but I thought maybe it would be an interesting adventure.
So, Tuesday night, March 5, I had my last beer. The IPA was delicious as I swished around the last gulp before tossing the can into the recycle bin. I said a swift goodbye, trying not to be dramatic. It’s just 40 days, I told myself. Not a big deal. You’re not sending your child across the Atlantic. I was cavalier because I believed the goal to be cavalier – no big deal. People do this all the time.
Wednesday night, March 6, I had my first beer.
So the Lenten fast didn’t go so well. Maybe I wasn’t committed enough. Maybe I’m a failure. Maybe I need to learn to suffer better. Good grief, look what Jesus did for me and I can’t even stomach a beer fast for forty days.
Did all of this go through my head as in my martyr days?
No, none of it was even considered. There was no shame. There was no verbal scourging. There was no name calling. Only grace, kindness, generosity.
You see, Tuesday night between my heartfelt IPA goodbye and bedtime, I learned of a close family member’s cancer diagnosis.
The unknowing despair rattled me. I tried to pray – nothing. I tried to rest – nothing. I tried to laugh – nothing. I tried to cry – nothing. I tried to work – very little. It was a strange time. And when there are few answers and only questions and a time-sensitive diagnosis with next to no information, it is impossible to know how to be.
I wandered around my house, bumping into things. I put my frustrations into the weights at the gym. I hunkered down around warm beverages to stave off the growing chill. I took to my office to feign productivity. But I was unmoored.
And the last thing I needed was anything that involved willpower.
So, I blew my Lenten fast.
There’s no shame.
Just an IPA a day.