On Ash Wednesday a few years back, I decided I was going to give up drinking for Lent. Somehow I knew that I couldn’t do it by willpower alone, and I really wanted it to work.
I figured that if I could surrender my whole self - my life - to God on my knees back in the Cathedral ten years earlier and not turn into a Jesus freak, I could surrender to the power of alcohol and turn it over to God for the forty days of Lent until Easter.
I always remembered a little sign that I saw in a Christian bookstore, it said something like … “Nothing is going to happen today that you and God can’t handle together.”
I thought to myself, “If I put aside the masculine - ‘I can do it by myself’ - part of my ego, and let God help me, it might work.”
I’m an optimist. To me the glass is half full, not half empty. Maybe that’s why I’ve loved the saying, “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.”
Well, that was like my plan to abstain from alcohol until Easter.
Here’s what I did: Every time I had a fleeting thought about that next beer or glass of wine, it would be like a signal that God was tapping me on the shoulder. The Holy Spirit enabled me to turn cravings for alcohol into a chance to pray. Turn lemons into lemonade. Turn dependence on alcohol into dependence on God.
Also part of my plan - what I didn’t know was a Lenten Devotion - was to drive the half hour to work in the morning with the radio off - (that was a toughie) - and use that time to pray. But day after day my mind would wander when I ran out of word prayers, even though my intention was to spend that whole drive to work praying. But every day when I pulled into the parking lot and look back at that half hour ride in silence, I’d kick myself for only giving God the first four minutes - and then the monkey chatter would begin and I’d be thinking about earthly trivialities that my self-centered ego generated. I hoped God wasn’t timing me.
Well, I did make it to Easter without drinking that Lent. My Lord and I did it together.
God and I worked together to forestall and prevent so many tragic outcomes that would have ensued if I had continued drinking. He and I had preserved my cherished marriage, my fathership, my family, my job, my financial security, my friends, my faith, my life, my sanity, my self-worth, my self-pride, etc, etc.
That Ash Wednesday, the disease of alcoholism had not progressed to a crisis. My drinking had not caused legal or marital, or employment or medical problems. So why would I quit? I can only explain that it had a lot to do with what God laid out for me to follow:
Lent in the church calendar calls me, every single year, to deny some particular worldly pleasure that takes my eye off my intended relationship with God.
Prayer called upon God’s outreached hand to help me. In my life in 1987, it was to resist alcohol. I can only thank God for this affliction. It led me to a closer walk with Him, strengthened my faith, and blessed me with a spiritual healing.
Thanks be to God, Ash Wednesday this year will be 32 years since I have had any alcohol except the blood of Jesus from the chalice at Eucharist.
Think about using this Lent, and God’s help to give yourself a cherished gift at Easter, and get to know Him better.
St. Mary’s Church, Bonita Springs, FL