But Peter said to him, “Lord, I’m ready to go to prison with you and to die with you.” Jesus replied, “Peter, I can guarantee that the rooster won’t crow tonight until you say three times that you don’t know me.” [Luke 22:33-34 (GW)]
Having been raised in the Episcopal Church, I’ve always observed Lent and practiced some sort of self-denial during the six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. According to Christianity Today, nearly one in five Americans observed Lent in 2015. In a survey this year, more than 400,000 tweeted about their fasts and food or drink and technology were the most popular categories of denial.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, many of us choose to turn away from small pleasures, indulgences, bad habits or things that may have distracted or derailed us spiritually. Even a temporary absence of something in life can make us appreciate the abundance we have; little denials can change the way we think about things after Lent. These six weeks help me to make positive behavioral changes and to consciously turn to God as I make them. In addition to giving up three things, I’ve added two Lenten devotionals to my daily prayer and Bible study.
“Did you choose to give up something for Lent? Have you kept the commitment? What has it taught you?” were the questions asked in one of yesterday’s Lenten devotions. Sweets were one of the things I gave up for Lent and I thought they were the easy one; the other two have taken more conscious effort and prayer. Have I kept the “no sweets” commitment? I had until the other night when we had dinner guests. As I prepared my nearly world famous cherry kuchen in preparation for their arrival, I had no intention of eating (or even tasting) it. In fact, I didn’t even find it appealing. Then came dessert time and I reached into the cupboard and mindlessly pulled down dessert plates for the five of us. I cut the cake, dolloped on whipped cream and served it. It wasn’t until the guests departed and I was washing the fifth plate that I even realized I’d eaten the cake!
“What has it taught you?” asked that Lenten devotion. Oh, how easy it is to stumble! I’m not wearing sackcloth and ashes just because I ate dessert during Lent. God and I are still on good terms but my slip has reminded me how easy it is to intend one thing and do another simply because we’re over-confident and unthinking. Consider Peter, so sure that he’d never betray Jesus and, yet, he did. It wasn’t until he’d heard the rooster crow that Peter even realized he’d done it! Unfortunately, it’s as easy to reach for a plate and thoughtlessly serve up some betrayal, gossip, temper, sarcasm, arrogance, selfishness, or jealousy as it is to eat a piece of cake.