I stood at the counter, anticipating the first sip of cardamom and vanilla. “Gosh, I’m glad I’m not Catholic,” I admitted to my Protestant self. “My Catholic friends have to give something up during Lent, and rumor has it, some give up essentials like lattes.” I shuddered at the thought. For me, and others in my faith tradition, we can dabble in Lent practices and give up indulgences of our choosing when our friend group decides it works for us that year or when posts about Why Lent Still Matters start to get to us on Facebook. With Easter less than a week away, friends who gave something up for Lent are starting to dream about dark chocolate binges, bags of white flour, or vente lattes.
I took a long, creamy sip through my froth and snickered at the joy and relief of knowing Jesus didn’t convict me to give up anything.
And that thought scared me. Did I really believe that?
In the aftermath of the holy Son of God giving up His perfect life for the dregs of mankind (that would be me), I had momentarily minimized sacrifice to categories like food and technology. Am I really so self-centered to think the absence of tangible things like social media or indulgences keep me from living passionately and sacrificially for Jesus? Do I think my preferences have that kind of power? If only it was that easy.
It takes more than letting go of a latte to live for Jesus. The Father has been clear with us about this and about what real love produces. We like to be in control, to be sure God doesn’t ask for too much. If we choose first and set the limits of the target and the time, we hope it will be enough to look like real love. For Jesus, it led him to the cross we are about to celebrate. For us, it requires letting go of the same: our life.
“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25
God doesn’t long for followers who let go of something they choose for a time period they set with a celebration of indulgence at the end. He wants more than that. He gave more than that. He wants it all. If lattes are what we love, maybe that’s where we start, but it’s not where He’s leading us. And as I’ve learned over and over in my journey of faith, when I hold tightly to temporary things, He gently and patiently and persistently and firmly works to unwrap my fingers from gripping what I love on earth. If I have a hard time letting go of something like a latte, it’s no wonder bigger things are such a challenge. If only lattes were enough! But they aren’t.
Security. Family. Companionship. Control. Significance. Comfort. Recreation. Prosperity. Certainty. Appreciation.
Good things? Yes, but the true things we may have to let go. These things I want so badly keep my thoughts and my allegiance from being “all in.” It takes more than a latte to hijack my loyalty for Jesus. And so Jesus asks for me to let go of more than a latte. But in return, He promises life.
Did you celebrate Lent? If you did, God may’ve used it in your life on your journey of letting go of everything. And if you’re like me and you didn’t, you can still let go of your life. It won’t be easy. It will reveal our weaknesses. “Eternal life” is still to come, and rumor has it the best lattes are in heaven.