Lenten Reflections: What Does Drinking Wine Have to do with Needing God?

When 5:00 rolls around, I want a glass of wine. Especially if it’s winter and I’m home alone with our children and it’s dark outside. I started to notice this desire a few months ago. I had this niggling warning in the back of my brain about it, but I pushed it away every night. It’s only one glass, I told myself. At least most of the time . . .

Then, in early December, I was staying with an old friend on a work-related trip. I got to her house around 6:00, and she asked, “Do you want a glass of wine?”

I paused before answering, because I was surprised to discover that I hadn’t thought about wine at all that afternoon. She, the mother of four children, said, “I’ve already had mine.”

And we confessed to each other that persistent desire–as the days grow short and we find ourselves preparing the kids’ dinner while also managing playdates and homework and fussy babies–that persistent desire to fill a glass with wine. “It makes me feel like an adult for a minute,” my friend said. “It’s something I can do just for me in the midst of doing everything for everyone else.”

I nodded my head. The reason I didn’t want a glass of wine that day at her house was because I had been on a train all day. Six hours of time to do whatever I wanted–read, write, pray, journal, eat, sleep. The night promised more of the same–dinner with an old friend, uninterrupted sleep, a bathroom all to myself.

When I returned to our family,  I made a few changes–signed the kids up for gymnastics and Music Together so we weren’t stuck at home every afternoon, talked to a few other friends who were aware of the same pattern in their lives, and I also started to pray about it.

For a while, I continued to justify the behavior. If I didn’t have small children, I reasoned, I could do something else–go for a run or talk to a friend or take 20 minutes to read a book. But pretty soon I realized that drinking wine was allowing me to short-circuit something God wants to do in my life. I was drinking wine instead of admitting my need for God’s help, instead of facing those humbling moments that arise almost every day, when it all feels out of control–the dishes and laundry and cooking and cleaning and bill paying and doctor appointments and general responsibility for three small children. Having children has the potential to chip away at the integrity of my life, to wear down my moral compass, to dull my sensitivities to the Spirit. But it also has the potential to bring me to my knees in a way little else ever has.

And so, this Lenten season, I am choosing to fall on my knees. Which for me right now means forgoing the 5:00 glass of wine. (For others, I suspect the temptation to avoid dependence upon God shows up in very different ways.) I’ll still drink wine on social occasions, and hopefully be quick to thank God for it. But when I feel as though I need it, I will admit instead that I need Him.

I came across Acts 14:17 this morning, when Paul and Barnabas explain God as the one who “provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” I trust that in humbling myself before the Lord, admitting my own neediness and dependence and frailty, I will know Him not only as the one who provides what we need in a material sense, but as the one who provides what I need in every sense. I trust that I will know Him better as the Lord of joy.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. Rachel P. says:

    It’s hard to admit we can’t do everything on our own, but life definitely has numerous daily reminders that we need God. My children are definitely some of those reminders for me as well. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ve thought about that evening glass of wine often in the way you describe, as a way to feel like a grown up, and I too worry some time that it’s more of a way to short-circuit feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion. There are many potential addictions out there–not just alcohol, but sugar, caffeine, shopping. I worry about it but then sometimes I wonder if we ask too much of ourselves at times–to be so perfect as to never need a crutch or a pick me up. If we are earnestly trying to build our capacity in other ways, isn’t it OK to take a short cut sometimes? (I sound like an enabler, which I don’t mean to do.) But thanks for taking up the topic, because I really want to think about this some more.

    • There are a couple different things going on for me here. One, trying to remember what I think is the proper place for alcohol–for enjoyment and social occasions, most of all, and certainly not as a daily way to deal with my children:). But in my case it’s more trying to ask–where are the places that I need God in my life? I’m not trying to overcome the need on my own, I’m just trying to invite God into the situation instead of drinking a glass of wine. Does that make sense? It doesn’t mean no wine ever again, and it doesn’t mean overcoming needs all by myself. It is more that I want to bring my needs (and wants) to God first, instead of skipping to the bottle…

  3. Gillian says:

    I totally agree. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jill29 says:

    Thank u for this.


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