Much Easier to Give up Chocolate

I have thought and thought about a final sacrifice post; written a couple, actually, and left them in draft. Last night, as I was listening, these verses jumped out at me. I've quoted just below from the New American Catholic Bible on the USCCB site.

Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels.
A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant,
correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth,
and that they may return to their senses out of the devil's snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will.
~2 Timothy 2: 23-26
In the Revised Standard Version, which is the audio version, it reads:

Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing,  correcting his opponents with gentleness.

God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, 

and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Stupid, senseless controversies are good things to give up. Sacrificing harshness and unkindness? Also good.

"You didn't give up chocolate for Lent, did you?" my friend Becca asked Christian, as she presented him with some Belgian chocolate from her recent trip to Europe.

"Nah. I was going to give up chocolate, but this whole blood mess started the day before Ash Wednesday and with all the medicine, it seemed like a better idea to give up caffeine."

"Ahh, the Lents when we give up chocolate are always so much easier than the ones when we don't choose what to sacrifice."

Indeed. It's one of those "universal truths," time-proven by the faithful, that Christian is learning this Lent. Sometimes, God chooses our sacrifices and, not surprisingly, those are not the easy Lents, but they can be the most fruitful.

I had one of those fruitful --but not of my own choosing-- Lents one year.

For years, I was at the tipping point. Something's got to give, God, I'd whisper aloud. I have too much to do. Something is robbing me of the time and energy to live with grace and joy. And always, the same idea would present itself. And I'd reject it. No, not that. God doesn't want me to stop doing that. It's helping people. I'm surrounded by religious women. They're teaching me so much. Even my husband doesn't think I should give that up.

And then, one Lent, it was completely wrenched away. Painful Lent. Brutal in its glaring honesty. It was nearly a year before I could understand how kind God had been to me, how patient He was as He tried to show me. 

God knew. He knew the tangled relationships, the snares that fed my weaknesses, the way that this investment of time and energy was really robbing me, even as I thought I was growing in holiness. He knew the ways that I had sinned and sinned and sinned again. And the sacrifice had been forced. For my good.

I had been forced to let go and turn instead to Jesus Himself for support.

Mine is not a unique experience. We are social creatures and most of us fall into companionships and associations that at some time are not healthy for us. It's not even that the people with whom we are associating are bad. They are just not good for us. In hindsight, God has always warned me of such relationships before the wrenching. Sometimes, I've heard and listened. More often, there's been a wrenching.

As my children get older, I see them wrestle some of the same things (of course they do; it's universal). Particularly tricky are people who go through all the right motions: attend the right church, show up at the right activities, profess to believe all the right things. But they don't lead to God Himself. They don't bring their companions closer to Jesus. They don't walk hand in hand with the Savior while offering the other hand to you. They don't make you better for knowing them.

Not bad people, necessarily. Just the wrong companions for you.

Giving up those relationships, sacrificing the human comforts they bring, is undoubtedly difficult.

It would be much easier to give up chocolate.

There is someone in my life today who has brought me closer to Jesus just by allowing me to be in her presence. And she is pure gift. A gift I didn't seek, a gift I never expected.  She is the embodiment of "let the children come". And she teaches with utter gentleness.

Just yesterday, I told her that I want to be her when I grow up. That is, when I am a mature woman of faith, who lives with the love of Christ, I think it will look and sound a lot like her. At least I pray it will. I told her I want to speak to children the way she does, with genuine respect and honest encouragement and profound appreciation for the gifts they are.

Come to think of it, I want to speak to everyone like that.

Time with her is time well spent. Lessons she teaches me are God's lessons. Gift. Grace.

My friend is struggling. Every breath is effort.

She doesn't get to choose what to sacrifice.

Please pray for God's most tender merices for her.

Please join us in prayer. If you'd like to post this reminder on your blog, the code is

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that {our} hearts may be encouraged as {we} are knit together in love, to have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ,
in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
~Colossians 2:2-3