The first time I ever heard about Lent, I was a first year at CBC. Everybody was talking about what they were giving up for lent and I had no idea what they were talking about. I’ve never done a ton of research on the subject as that’s not my style, but I did enough to understand what it is and why people do it.
That first year, I decided to give up Myspace for lent. Oh man, do you guys remember myspace and the emotional drama of being in a top 8 and then some people had a top 16 and your life goal was to be number one on that top list. I remember being so upset when someone would take me off their top 8 or when someone would get upset with me for moving them down in the ranks. Oh man, drama. Good riddance!
So, I gave up Myspace for Lent, and guess what? About 2 weeks in I created a facebook account. Sometimes I decide to give something up for Lent, and almost every time I replace it with something else. One time I gave up coffee and by the end of Lent I was pounding back green teas like they were water.
The whole purpose of fasting from something is that when you crave whatever you are fasting from, you pray. Except in my case, whenever I craved something I would just find something else to fill that void that wasn’t Jesus. And, I am REALLY good at rationalizing my irrational actions to myself and legitimizing void fillers.
My coworker made a comment about how she gives something up that won’t be “Selfish fasting” before Lent began. She was talking about when people give up Starbucks or junk food, but in giving up those items they are saving money and losing weight. Their fast ends up being more about how they want to change their physical well being than pointing them towards God. Giving up Starbucks, yeah that can be difficult, but you can always make coffee at home. Now, giving up caffeine, there’s a challenge.
I am 100% addicted to caffeine. I am completely ok with this addiction and have no desire to not be addicted to caffeine. You could tell me all the negative opinions about it, and I will not listen to any of them because I love coffee.
I love everything about coffee. I love the smell. I love the taste. I love the way it looks in a cute mug. I love the crema that forms at the top and makes cute little designs as it fizzles out. I love the warmth it brings to my esophagus on the way down. I love the way it makes my eyes feel less droopy at 9am. I love that when I drink it my whole body feels like it can take on the world if for just a few moments. I love when people walk by me with a cup of coffee and I can smell it as they pass. And here’s an awkward one, I love when someone just drank coffee and then they talk to me and I smell their coffee breath. Coincidentally, I also love the smell of skunk. But the thing I love most about coffee, is the way that it brings me together with people.
I have blogged about my love for coffee and how it is a social event for me. I have explained how I feel like coffee brings people together and can create a depth in conversation that a glass of water cannot. And I have detailed that when I get sad, sometimes I drink shots of espresso.
So, this year for Lent I decided to give up coffee. But, in true Shanna fashion, I sorted out the details of my lent after lent began. So I originally decided to give up coffee, and then in an attempt to not let myself fill my coffee void with anything else I decided that I was going to give up all beverages except water and juice/smoothies.
Wednesday, March 5th was the first day of Lent. At about 11am I had to turn out the lights in our office because they were hurting my brain. By 3 I was sitting in a dark office, with the shades closed, and my computer turned down to the lowest setting. This was the beginning of my caffeine headache. However, at 10am and noon and 3pm for my breaks I just closed my eyes and prayed for my youth girls that I would be seeing that night.
The next day, I couldn’t go into work, I stayed home and slept until 4:30 hoping that my headache would go away and praying every time I woke up for a few minutes to toss and turn. You should know, I get headaches like once a year, and when I do they don’t affect the quality of my life at all. This is the most intense headache I have ever felt in my life.
By Friday, my head was still a bit sore but I was able to go about doing life again. It has been 2 and a half weeks now, and I am no longer physically affected by the absence of coffee in my life. However, because I genuinely love the taste of coffee I still crave it from time to time. But I don’t miss it enough that it reminds me to pray. It’s like, “oh hey I want coffee right now. oh right, back to this email I was working on.”
So, technically with Lent, you are allowed to skip on Sundays. Lent is 40 days, 6 days a week until Easter Sunday. However, I had not been drinking coffee on Sundays because I didn’t want to feel the pain that would ensue the next day from not having caffeine in my system again.
On St. Paddy’s day (my favorite day of the year, excluding my birthday) I decided to pause on my Lent. I had an Americano at noon and later that afternoon could be found spinning in my computer chair and talking at a mile a minute. And then I noticed something that hadn’t happened at all in the 2 weeks prior while I wasn’t drinking coffee. I was talking to someone and they told me I needed to calm down.
People tell me I need to calm down all the time. I am known for how fast I talk and sometimes I talk so fast that I can hear my words slurring together into one big word and I can’t even stop myself. Sometimes I talk so fast that I skip over entire words in a sentence. And for a majority of my life I have been told that I am too hyper or too excited or too loud or I need to calm down or slow down. And I’m gonna be honest, although I usually smile and keep on doing whatever I’m doing, it kind of hurts my feelings a bit.
So, when someone said this to me after I had a cup of coffee, I realized that I am legitimately affected by my caffeine intake. I just never noticed it because I never don’t drink coffee. And maybe not drinking coffee makes me act more my age than I’m used to.
I always see people who are my age and feel like they are just way more composed and calmer than I am, they always seem so serious and talk about politics. And although it’s probably good to act that way sometimes, I kind of like that I am still able to be excited by small things and get crazy and embarrass myself from time to time. And I LOVE that I can laugh at anything. I love laughing, more than I love coffee if you can believe it. And my world would be very dreary if I was only allowed to laugh as much as the average late 20′s person.
You may say, “why would you want to drink coffee again if not drinking it makes you a normal person?” Here’s the thing, I’m not normal. Also, 90% of the time, people appreciate my ridiculousness and enthusiasm. But the REAL reason I will continue to drink coffee is because I love it, and more importantly I love who God created me to be and how when I drink coffee I feel closer to him, closer to others, and more confident in who he has made me.
So, I miss coffee, and I could always go for a cup even if it is decaf. But my missing coffee has stopped making me dependent on Jesus, and I am at a stage where I could go on and be completely unfazed. So, I am starting to think that maybe rather than practicing Lent and spending 40 consecutive days empathetically fasting from something, it would be more beneficial for my relationship with Jesus to fast from my addiction 1 day at a time, for 40 days, spread out over a year.
In doing this, I will have those horrifying moments of withdrawl where I am physically unable to do anything other than pray, but every time I do it I will actually feel its absence.
Also, I am a verbal processor. It is literally impossible for me to go 40 days without telling someone what I am doing. In keeping my fast to random days over the year I can actually fast correctly. I will be able to fast from something and the chances of me actually discussing it with someone are much less.
I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I am one of those people who tells someone that I’m fasting while being authentic in a conversation, and then immediately regrets it because I don’t want anyone to know. However it is very difficult for me to practice something so significant and not share how it is affecting me with someone.
Although it may not make any sense to anybody else, coffee is totally a spiritual thing for me. I feel like it’s mine and God’s time together in the morning. My first cup of coffee is usually consumed quite slowly while I sit on the edge of my bed and wake up for 20 minutes. This is probably the only time of any day that my mind is not running 100 miles a minute. It is the only time during the day that I can just sit with Jesus and not be riddled with anxiety about what may or may not happen in the next 24 hours.
If I just drink coffee in the morning, I will be awake. But if I drink coffee and talk to Jesus, it centers me, it sets my life back on track. Not every cup of coffee I drink focuses me on Jesus, but it should. Maybe instead of trying so hard to cut something out of my life, I should refocus myself to add something into my life. I have made lent a ritual, a rule that I need to follow to get my holy points. But Jesus didn’t die so I could follow a rule. He died so every morning we could sit together for a little while and he could wake my soul so that I may go out and glorify him.