Willingly entering the ‘desert’ for Lent

Published 2:45 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

Writing this the day after Ash Wednesday, ankle deep in the desert sand of Lent, on “Fat Tuesday” sipped my last bourbon, wine, and beer until Easter….  I’ve given up booze for Lent so long can’t remember when I started, and it has never been “too” difficult – helps that there is firm starting point (Ash Wednesday) and stopping (Holy Thursday).  In fact, by Easter, I feel so good from having slept better, losing weight, more energy and brain cells, that the first taste of “sin” after 40 days in the “dry” desert of Lent, is awful! Plus, I save beaucoup dollars! 

Now … I love bourbon, drink little beer, wine sometimes with supper, and like to sip a wee tipple of bourbon (small glass) at Happy Hour with my cat Jag on our patio, sitting at this computer, or on projects for hours, as it knocks that ache off my being and edge off the day.  But it also knocks the safety switch off my introverted, conservative tongue, and stuff I normally think, but shove down, occasionally blathers onto Facebook! Sorry…y’all.  Introverts, are you nodding that you get that?  

It’s sort of like, Joe Nichols country music song, “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.”  Ha!  I’m not that bad, but it does surprise me at times when that “other” Steve appears.  Regular blood workups and consultation with hero, Dr. Mona Castle, indicate my AST and ALT or well within normal limits because a wee glass of bourbon will last over an hour, abstain for several days to rest my liver and kidneys, forty days is swell, and allows me to pull back within body good practice, my conservative, introverted fence, and into deep meditation of our Lord’s passion, crucifixion, and resurrection at Easter. 

“Lent” is Latin derived from Greek meaning, “fortieth day.”  Forty has various meanings in the Bible but generally refers to the forty days Jesus retreated into the desert prior to his public ministry, fasted, and was tempted by the devil. 

 

We are especially reminded of our mortality on Ash Wednesday when Fr. Joe places the cross of ashes (produced from burned Palm Sunday palms on my patio for the past seven years, newly “retired”) on our forehead and says: “Remember that you are dust and onto dust you shall return.”  Sobering words to contemplate as we embark on our Lenten journey. This year, Fr. Joe “sprinkled” ashes on top our heads to minimize person to person contact, to reflect baptism, saying, “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” or, reject sin and turn to the word of God…. 

 

My Lenten “plan” has evolved over the years but is basically the same:  No booze (beer, wine…beloved bourbon), fast, nothing between meals, no meat on Friday, focus on eating better (healthy mind, body, and soul), no pizza, chips, sweets, salt, pepper, sugar, extra salad dressing, increase daily workout, dutifully clean, organize house, garage, tool bench, yard, me, work methodically, peacefully in moderation and patience on my projects, put clothes away immediately from dryer, make bed daily, develop natural gifts from God, follow teachings of the Church, continue attending Sunday, daily Mass and Rosary, confession at least once a month, helping setup for Mass, organize the church, pray for those I care about, who care about me (especially those who don’t), reach out daily to at least three others, lower my defenses, open my heart and mind to “hear” God’s voice, Holy Spirit prompts, be humbly thankful, pray for the Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and to especially scrutinize my faults asking our Lord for help correcting them … that alone is a load!

 

Why? because the church asks us to; more importantly, as a sinner seeking forgiveness my prayer life deepens, I become quiet while meditating on our Lord incarnate who suffered, died, to save us, because God is always there for me, guides, comforts, heals, gives me peace, has performed so many miracles in my life, and is a small way to thank Him. 

No, bloody hell no, this isn’t easy, not supposed to be and will take a bit of adjustment at first, but this yoke is light, and by Easter my faith will grow, lose weight, sleep, think, feel better, and save money.   My Lent drink is literally the Queens Tea, tomato juice, Apple Cider Vinegar in Grapefruit juice, water, coffee…tried giving up coffee once – nope…!

Plus, this creates a prayerful dependency on God to get me through to Easter. Being in the “desert” of Lent helps atone for my sins, eliminates a lot of “noise” so I can “hear” God’s will for me and focus on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell…. 

Pope Francis said, “Let us prepare ourselves with confidence to follow the Lenten journey as an opportunity for conversion and interior renewal in listening to the Word of God, in prayer, in the daily exercise of charity towards one’s neighbor.” 

As I pray for y’all – please pray for me, yourself, especially Ukraine and Russia’s unprovoked aggression…. Peace Out.

 

Steve Stricker is an Oxford resident and received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss.  He can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu