An earthen vessel enters into Lent

“Mom,” they pleaded. “Don’t give up chocolate this year.”

“Why not?” I asked. “I was pretty good last year.”

“Well, uh, actually you weren’t,” my husband insisted. “We can’t take another Lent with you not eating chocolate.”

And with that, my Lenten resolve crumbled. Forgoing dark chocolate for forty days would be pointless if it puts my family, friends, and possibly even my patients through hell on earth. In their own way, my family told me that my fasting from chocolate last year was only a success in my eyes. The truth is, I was determined to give up chocolate and because of my dogged self-reliance, I couldn’t see that I had placed an extra, unnecessary burden on my family. As I prayed about this while driving home from work, I had a vision of my spiritual director pointing to a little card that he keeps on his desk. On the card is the passage from 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. Every once in a while, usually when I say something that would otherwise cause him to execute an epic facepalm, he points to this card. He even reminds me that I have a copy of it and I should read it and pray on it.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

 Maybe for some of us, recognizing, admitting, and embracing the fact that we are earthen vessels is what the Spirit wills for us this Lent. Perhaps the cross we are being asked to carry as we journey with Jesus to Golgotha, while made up of our daily afflictions and perplexities, is a constant reminder that we are powerless—even to the point of not being able to fast well.

So, if like me, you haven’t given anything up for Lent, then maybe for the moment we just have to be mindful that even the inspiration and ability to fast well comes from the Lord. Or perhaps without realizing it, we are already fasting from our self-reliant attitude and in this way we are reminded of our weakness and our nothingness.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.

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