At the beginning of Lent I felt extremely thankful, almost exuberant, at the healthy arrival of my daughter Josie. Our family had survived another pregnancy with mom functioning at less than full capacity. The pain, sickness, exhaustion, and worry of pregnancy were over. The first difficult postpartum month was behind us. For the first time in 10 months I felt like my body, and our family routine, were headed in the right direction.
I felt so thankful and enthusiastic that I wanted to show God my gratitude in a big way. I planned to give up coffee for Lent.
My grand Lenten plan did not involve forgoing all caffeine. I figured I would just replace the coffee with tea or an afternoon coke. I would be without the delicious taste of coffee, but not the energy it provided. For the first several days I followed this replacement model, and I dealt with the headaches by popping a couple of ibuprofen. I was tired and irritable, but I tried my best to offer it up and I “knew” that I’d be back to my old self after a week.
10 days passed, and my experiment, err Lenten sacrifice, was an epic failure. The “replacement” caffeine wasn’t cutting it. I was so tired and miserable that Mr. Red ordered me to start drinking coffee again. “Choose mortifications that don’t mortify others,” were his exact words. Ouch. It was a big piece of humble pie. I felt like a failure. How could I fail so miserably to give up something so small for God?
On the order of my husband, I started drinking coffee again the next day (albeit without sugar), and with that first cup, sip by sip, I slowly felt the energy return to my body. As I drank I started to feel hopeful, and happy. It was at this point that I realized the full strength of my addiction.
I spent the next several days full of energy but incredibly disturbed that my lifestyle necessitated large doses of caffeine to function. I simply wasn’t getting enough sleep to have any energy without the help of caffeine, and there was really no way to get the sleep I needed with our large brood of children and a nursing infant. Homeschooling, soccer practice, swimming, piano, and baseball couldn’t just be put on hold for months while mom got extra sleep.
It would be several more months before the baby’s sleep schedule was stable enough for me to consistently get quality sleep at night. And without the coffee, I was done. This realization made me feel incredibly out of control, weak, and humbled. My Lent was a failure. I couldn’t even give up something as simple as coffee for God. I was a spiritual loser.
I spent a week or two thinking about my failure and feeling very weak. But then I had a revelation, or rather I was reminded of something that I should have known all along—I can’t earn Easter.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
In my crazy busy life with five young children, I need a lot of grace. Even if I have an amazing schedule in place, outside help, an amazing husband, and coffee! it will all fall apart without the grace of God. I can’t do it without God’s grace.
And so as Lent draws to a close, I am meditating a lot on my own weakness, I’m praying for God’s grace, and I’m thanking Jesus for the great gift of Easter. My type A personality has a hard time accepting that intense Lenten sacrifices such as wearing sackcloth and ashes, great fasts, hours in prayer, or even a coffee-less Lent for a tired postpartum mom don’t earn Easter. But they don’t. No matter how intense the sacrifice, it can’t earn Easter.
Easter isn’t earned. It is given as a great gift of love to all God’s children. And I thank God for this reminder every morning as I drink my cup of coffee.