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Lent for Pleasure Deniers

Scriiiitch. The tiniest window of visibility appears. Scraaaape. Wrist makes circles as I drag the brushy end of my car scraper across the windshield. The patch of clear sight grows painstakingly. Normal winter behavior. Except that I’m scraping out the inside of my windshield from the driver’s seat. A broken heater means fluctuating frost inside and out. Welcome to my winter driving experience. Grabbing groceries means parking lot defrost sessions.

The ice on both sides forms a frost-based sandwich that hides the crack snaking across a good two-thirds of the surface. There’s also a strange mechanical stench wafting somewhere engine-wise.

After defrosting, I drive home and unpack, groceries spilling out in the kitchen. I barely register the exposed beams and plastic tarp holding off pellets of foam insulation overhead. Slim vinyl planks give way to grubby unfinished wood underfoot. My oven’s on the fritz. The dishwasher boasts a tangle of wires in its underbelly. Even if the water-swollen particle board counter didn’t block the machine from opening, I’d be scared to try running it.

It’s become this willful grin and bear it situation.

I’m thinking about this because it is Lent season, the time of denying yourself something for an extended period of time. Looking at my car and kitchen, it appears I’m very good at this denial of pleasures already. But really, my denial of repair, my embrace of subpar conditions, they are the exact opposite of what Lent is about.

I have the means to repair these things, an insurance check and good savings built up. I keep these funds in the same way I hoard freezer meals and gift cards. Maybe I’ll need it more later.

In doing this, I’m actually denying gifts from God.

I’m denying His call to care for this broken world and enter into His mending work.

I’m denying that what He’s given me for today is enough for today’s problems.

I’m denying that He’ll take care of me through another calamity.

To go without simply to have less is not a good reason.

What fills the void instead?

Even minimalists, the poster children of less, don’t pitch clothes and gadgets just to discard them. They preach of finding more calm, more focus, more time with things they do want.

I’m writing this as I eat lunch on a blanket on my kitchen floor. Not because I’m denying myself a table, but because I’m embracing the pleasure of eating lunch in a patch of delicious sunlight.

I think giving up small pleasures during Lent might be like this. Denial of something ordinary in order to soak up something bigger. A reminder and reorienting of posture towards real sustenance.

I’m working on two things this Lent season: making space to meet God in my days, and finally repairing the things he has given me. May they be places of nourishment.

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