February 27, 2010 10:58:00 PM
I''ve never been in a church that celebrated the Lenten season, until now. Pastor Curtis pointed out the irony of going around all year thinking how good we are, and then on Ash Wednesday we get black soot on our foreheads reminding us just how bad we are. The ashes signify our sinfulness and repentance before a gracious God. Jesus said, in essence, love the people, hate the sin. My sin hurts me and the people I love. I hate it, and yet I do it again and again.
One night Sam and I were reading Max Lucado. Max was talking about sin, and we were feeling a little smug about how we had finally gotten it all together. Then Max said, "At the very least, you''ve complained. You''ve worried. You''ve grumbled. You''ve hoarded when you should have shared. You''ve turned away when you should have helped ... you''ve snapped at the ones you love and with the ones you cherish. You''ve felt ashamed, guilty, bitter ... You''ve sired a thousand heartaches and broken a million promises. Your addiction traces back to sin. Your mistrust ...
bigotry, robbery, adultery ..."
Our pride balloon deflated like a kiddie pool at the end of summer. There we were, pride, spread all over the ground. Then Max reminded us of the grace part. That with help we can change. We knew that was true because we have managed to change some things and, God willing, there will be more changes.
Curtis asked us to consider sacrificing something for Lent. Once I asked someone if they had ever sacrificed anything for someone else. They responded, "No, I don''t think you can make yourself do that." I thought of the many sacrifices that I had made for that very person. Their answer told me a lot about the state of our relationship. Love is all about sacrifice.
So for Lent that year, Sam decided to sacrifice cookies. For 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, no cookies. Curtis laughed and said, "Cookies?" He didn''t think it was much to give up, but to Sam it was huge; especially later in the Lenten season when he volunteered to make six dozen cookies for a project and couldn''t eat a single one. Then we made some crafts at church and someone set a plate of Girl Scout cookies in the center of the table. Sam took two cookies and glued them to his construction paper. That seems to happen when you try to give something up -- cookies were cropping up everywhere.
Hard to give up
I tried giving up a behavior. I decided to give up my right to have my way. Boy, that''s tough.
I was asked to write a short play for Maundy Thursday (another holiday I wasn''t used to). I wrote the play, and then the director wanted to change things. I''m really not good at changing things, you can ask my editor. But I knew this was one of those sacrificial tests, and I immediately said, "Fine. We''ll change it."
Even the director paused and said, "Are you sure?" Yes, I was sure because I knew I had given up my right to be right, and now I was having opportunities to do just that.
I would not recommend giving up a behavior unless you are into extreme sacrificing; like the cookies, you will get plenty of chances not to be right. Also, you know it only takes 28 days to form or change a habit, so there is a good chance you might change forever. I''m pretty sure I didn''t change on my "right to be right." We can ask Sam about that.
Come that Easter morning, Sam''s sacrifice ended well, with a basket full of chocolate chip cookies. "Celebrate, celebrate; dance to the music!"
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
5. A Stone's Throw: Bridge work COLUMNS