My typical approach to observing Lent is a substantial fast of some sort 1 or 2 weeks before Easter. I usually don’t pick one particular food or activity to abstain from for the entire 40 days of Lent (46 if you fast on Sundays too).
So what possessed me to fast coffee this entire Lent season this year? I’m guessing it was the Holy Spirit (or some kind of spirit) since that is NOT something I EVER fast intentionally.
Well, as difficult as it has been I would have to say that I am learning some things in the process. It took about two weeks of deprivation, but some signs of addiction did finally begin to emerge. First of all, somewhere around day 12 I began to notice a growing tendency towards irritability. For a few days I thought I just had a case of the grumps…but the longer it lasted, the more aware I became of the source.
Another clue came when I realized I was avoiding community…relationships…conversation. That could just be a continuation of the first side effect, but it seems separate to me because I often identify coffee and espresso as something to be enjoyed communally. When I couldn’t enjoy the bean, I couldn’t enjoy being…with others. Sounds pretty lame to confess this publicly, but I’ve never been one to under-share!
During the past couple of weeks I’ve substituted another addiction in order to get some relief: running. Yeah…quite a different kind of addiction but I’ve noticed a desire to run multiple times a day which has probably only happened one other time. That’s the time I realized running/working out could also become an obsession…a means of self-medicating…an escape.
Now I actually don’t believe these addictions are completely problematic. In moderation, both running and coffee have immense benefits in my life. Both bring relief from stress and create certain soothing rituals for daily living and thriving. However, one of the whole points of fasting for me (whether it’s coffee, food, social media, etc) is raising my own awareness of the things I lean on more so than my relationship with God/Christ. I look forward to this Lenten journey each year because it helps me strip away the things I use to insulate myself from God and others. My identity as a coffee guy is well established. The caffeine molecule and I are pretty close. But when my identify is grounded in the truth of God’s redemptive and restorative plan for my life more so than the rituals, comforts, and crutches I prop my self up on, then I can more authentically live out of the correct source and self.