Journey with John

As we move forward on our journey to the Cross, this story from “Parables of Life & Death” by Martin Bell convicts me.  He writes: “I’m going to fast,” he said.  “Have you tried to slow down?” I inquired kindly.  He looked at me with an attitude of charitable disbelief in his glance.  “I’m going to ‘fast’” he repeated, pronouncing each word carefully, “Not too fast.”

“Oh,” I managed a nervous smile.  “Listen, son, you know, FAST, like in not eating.  I’m doing it for Lent, for Jesus, you know?”  “Holy cow!” I said with genuine admiration.  “Boy, that’s great.  How long do you think you can keep it up?”  His remark had brought me to the edge of my chair.  I became highly animated.  “Forty days…” was his matter of fact reply.  A sense of awe came over me.  My eyes filled with tears.  “You’ll starve.”  He was going to commit suicide for his faith.  I had never respected a man so much.  “Well, it won’t kill me, you know,” he blushed.  I didn’t know.  I wondered if I would have that kind of composure with death so near.

“Grapefruit juice,” he whispered.  With alarm I realized it has begun already.  He was hallucinating. “Grapefruit juice,” he said again.  “That’s what I’m giving up.  It won’t kill me to go 40 days without grapefruit juice, for heaven’s sake!”  My disappointment was keen – almost unbearable.  “What’s wrong with you, son?”  “Oh, nothing,” I mumbled.  My shoulders slumped.  I sat back and shoved both hands into my pockets.  “How about you?  Aren’t you going to fast?”  “I suppose so,” I nodded.  “Yeah, you’re right.  I am going too fast….”

I have great admiration for those individuals disciplined enough to give up something for the Lenten season, but I fear that too often it is something that is not much of a challenge to give up.  I do not judge.  I admire those who give up things for Lent.  It’s a discipline I lack for the most part.  I admire even more those people that add something to their lives during Lent.  I always like the positive twist.  But, again, I wonder if we add just enough to ease our conscience.  I want to give up and pick up something, but I want it to be of worth as I walk to the cross.  I think, maybe, I’d like to be like a woman I see almost every day on my way home for lunch.  She walks the lonely Salisbury roadside picking up trash.  She does it every day!  I don’t know just why, but I think it must have something to do with wanting to make her corner of the world a better place, a cleaner place, a more suitable place for people to be.  I am a bit in awe of her – every day she does it!  Our road is always clean.  She’s making a difference….  Maybe that’s what I think is most important in this Lenten season – making a difference whether it be giving up something that causes you to stray from God’s path or taking up something that challenges you to follow God’s plan.  I hope that one day you might see me walking along Salisbury road picking up trash with a lady who I think has gotten it right.


Pastor John