Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link. Simone Weil
I have a headache.
I want a Diet Coke.
I gave up Diet Coke for Lent.
I cannot say whether it is my body or my mind that turns first toward that magic elixir. I do know there are times and places – rituals, you might say – wherein I crave it most.
With Chinese food.
With pretzels and chips.
With four whiny children at my feet.
With headaches, severe and with stress and exhaustion – these make an excellent pairing.
Yesterday I sublimated my cravings for soda by eating the last, stale squares of brownie, prying them out of the glass dish with a steak knife. Does that still count as sacrifice?
I’m not good at Lent, not very good at anything long-ish, although I can do deep on the spot. Also, it seems a bit foolish, me here in my first world comforts, donning the proverbial hair shirt of a caffeine deprived existence. Nothing noble, nothing brave.
Who knows, maybe this very evening I’ll walk across the street to the little deli, a wrinkled dollar and five cents in my hand. They’re waiting there, chilled to perfection, black bottles lined up like soldiers waiting to be deployed.
Moreover, my discipline, should it endure, will not make Christ love me more.
Easter comes to us all, my friends, to those who anxiously prepare and wait and to those also who find it sneaking up like a surprise.
So, why bother?
I haven’t given up yelling at my kids, as this friend has (let us all say a prayer for her now!), or looking in the mirror like this woman here who’s leading a whole movement of women in smashing their idols. I will continue to eat meat on Fridays and I will, mostly likely, slip-up when it comes to soda consumption.
With this relinquishment I’m building a wall, not the Great Wall of China, but something smaller, a facade you might say, between me and my good friend God, so that we can learn to communicate better.
I’m listening to my moods and how they swing, listening to what lies just behind the craving and, should I endure, what lies further behind. I’m asking God about what I hear, what I see in myself, in gentle and non-judgemental ways.
“Oh, my God, this day is simply too much, I really think a soda would make it better.” I say, knocking with some urgency.
“Yes,” God says, tapping slowly in reply, “it’s possible it would. But really, let’s stick with what’s going on right here right now, you can get a soda later if you still need it.”
Then and there, just like that, a conversation unfolds between the two of us.
And so it goes.
Knocking, tapping, banging at times, on that same flimsy wall for forty days straight.
It’s not about what you give up or whether you make it forty days or not.
It’s not about earning or proving.
For me, it’s about listening intentionally, opening myself to a conversation that wouldn’t otherwise happen.
And, also, it’s about Easter that comes to us all, slowly and surely whether we realize we’ve been waiting or not; Easter, when ALL of the walls came down.