When I was around 7 years old, I decided that I was going to give up ice cream for lent, my favorite food in the whole wide world. And ya know, the only thing I remember from my 7th lent, was the time that it hurt the most.
Let me set the scene. All of my cousins, aunts, and uncles are at grandparent’s house and we’re gathering around a table. It’s one of our birthdays (can’t remember who because, clearly, my mind was elsewhere). The song is coming to a close, “Haaaaappy Birrrrrrthdaaaay toooo yooooou!” and someone yells, “Who wants cake?! Who wants ice cream?!”All I felt was excitement! My cousins were jumping around, laughing, and preparing their bellies for the BEST part of birthdays. I’m beginning my personal celebration, watching my grandma scoop the first dish of ice cream, when it hits me…
I don’t get any.
And everyone else does.
And I must WATCH.
It was the kind of thing horror movies are made of.
7-year-old Emily Martinez HORROR MOVIES!
As the dishes of my cousins began to fill with Neapolitan ice cream, the drama became a bit too much for 7 year old Emmy, and I burst out into tears. TON of tears, ladies and gentlemen. You heard correctly. OVER LACK OF ICE CREAM.
Sista BAWLED in front of everyone.
Giving up ice cream had been a breeze up until that point… It was out of sight and out of mind. It wasn’t until it was placed right in front of me and I was told I couldn’t have it, that things got REAL. I remember feeling so hurt, so upset, so cheated out of something so dang GOOD.
I look back on that memory now, and I can’t believe that a dish of ice cream (or lack there of) could have caused me so much pain. To this day, I remember how hard I cried. I remember how hard it was to make that sacrifice.
I started thinking about this lent… my 24th lent. This lent, I understand the Webster definition of the word “sacrifice”, something that probably wasn’t true of 7-year-old Emily. But have I experienced it in the same way that I did as a child?
A few days ago, I listened to a talk by Christopher West on fasting. He said, at the end of a meal, when you realize that you’re still hungry, you have three choices.
- You can return for more food than you physically need, and be glutinous….
- You can repress your hunger. Pretend you don’t feel it. Hide it away.
- You can allow your desire for more to awaken your hope for the feast that lasts forever.
“If you don’t know the pain of hunger, how can you truly enjoy the feasting?”
Spot. On. Good. Sir.
And these three points apply to more than just fasting from food. It also applies to friendships, relationships, and any instance where truly loving another is involved.
- How often do we take too much of a good thing? To the point of selfishness? For our own personal pleasure? (John Paul II said that the problem in the world today when it comes to love, is in this next sentence. “I long for you as a good.” When it should instead be, “I long for your good.” The first sentence is selfishness in disguise. The second is the true foundation of love.)
- How often do we ignore our God given desires because instant gratification is not in the near future, so why bother? Patience? Perseverance? What’s that nonsense?
- How often do we actually embrace the pains and longings that derive from our desire for good things, good food, and good people? How often do we let giving up that piece of chocolate cake unite us, if only for a moment, to the suffering of those who go to bed without dinner? How often do we let the desire to love and be loved by that one person we can’t get our mind off of, remind us of the love our Lord is trying to give us on a daily basis, if we would only turn to him? How often do we take that money we were going to spend on that second cup of coffee, and instead drop it in the collection basket on its second time around?
I say this and I’m thinking, “Man that’s gonna be hard, good luck!” Ha. Real life, though! It’s so hard! Oh my WORD, it’s hard. And that’s OKAY. That’s good. The Lord gives us such beautiful desires. But the world isn’t a perfect place and those desires get twisted. I pray that we all have a lent that purifies our hearts. A lent that causes us to really CRY when those dishes of ice cream are served around us! Fulton Sheen said, “Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.” Boom. Roasted.
Cry on Fri, Fun on Sun.
I think for a while, I was afraid to let my heart ache for the good that I am fasting from, because was I really allowed to feel weak in order to be strong? Why, yes. Welcome to Catholicism. Be weak this lent. It’s okay.
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”