Friday, February 15, 2013

Breaking Lenten Fasts

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Well, that was fast.  Not only was it fast, but of the three Lenten commitments that were applicable today, I broke two of them and nearly broke the third.  Here's how it happened.

My company is going through the worst layoffs in recent memory and there are a few in my group that were affected. One of them is a good friend who also served as a mentor for me when I first started.  In order to say goodbye and maybe also boost morale, our whole department went out to lunch.  

My wife and I started a tradition last Lent where we gave up eating out and take the money from the "eating out" portion of our budget and donate it to a charitable organization.  For those of you who have ever tried to give up eating out, while it's definitely tough, we enjoy the defined nature of it (in terms of length of time), that it is easily quantifiable (if there's no budget, how do you know when you would have eaten out and how much you would have spent?), and that we get to exercise the discipline of living simply while being generous (not easy in Silicon Valley suburbia).  One unexpected thing from keeping this fast last year was how much we began to notice every restaurant, even the crappy ones.  We'd drive down the main street and be like, "Whoa, I didn't even know there was a restaurant there."

When I got the invitation to the goodbye lunch, I was torn.  I was well aware of my Lenten commitment of not eating out, but at the same time, I wanted to be able to say goodbye to my good friend and to be with my department.  There was also the possibility of the lunch being sponsored by the department which seemed like a reasonable loophole.  I suppose I could have just gone to the restaurant, but not ordered anything, but since I had a meeting before the lunch and I was going to be late arriving to the restaurant, it just seemed odd (yes, yes, #highexpectationschristian says "would you rather offend God or please man?").  Ultimately, I made peace with it reasoning that I would rather show solidarity with a friend than be legalistic, which I can be. I was gonna order something simple anyways. 

Rushing to the restaurant after having parked far away, I arrived just after a huge crowd.  I see some of my co-workers picking up their food at the front of the line so I walk over to them.  Not sure if we were being comped or if they had all ordered together or separate, I started asking them if I needed to get to the back of the line.  Just then, a co-worker standing next to me told me to order on his ticket and the cashier was asking me what I wanted.  Still adjusting to the setting (I get a bit overwhelmed when I drop into a huge crowd quickly), I was drawing a blank.  I hadn't seen a menu and didn't see one anywhere.  I sort of hemmed and hawed a bit when my supervisor who was also standing next to me piped in and said, "How about the house burger?"  Whew, that was basic and sounded great.  When asked what I wanted to drink, my auto-pilot kicked in seeing the nice micro-brew selection on tap.  Were we ordering pitchers of beer?  No, everyone ordered their own?  Okay, then I'll get a pint.

Shoot.  While giving up eating out was a family sacrifice for Lent, my personal sacrifice this year is giving up alcohol.  Alcohol has always been something I enjoyed and with what I like to think of as wholesome fun.  I was the Christian that didn't drink until he was 21 and once I became of age, I really enjoyed the social nature of it (in moderation) in addition to the exploration of various genres (currently a huge scotch fan).  Still, I had felt a tugging in my heart since last year to perhaps consider a fast so this Lent was my opportunity.

I remember my sacrifice right as I'm about to order a beer and at the last second, I veer off and simply ask for a glass of water.  The bartender, who already has a pint glass in his hand, gives me a funny look and swaps it for a plastic water cup.  "Phew," I think, "Almost blew that one."

I settle into the banter of the department and soon after, my order was ready.  I was hungry and it looked like a nice, solid burger.  The fixings were DIY and as I stood there pumping my ketchup, a wave of horror washed over me.

Shit.  Today is Friday.  I'm not supposed to eat meat. 

What do I do now?  My mind goes into damage control mode.  Do I take a stand for Jesus and say even if I have to look like a total idiot, I will waste this food to not break His commandments?  Or do I still eat it and depend on God's grace that His love for me is greater than a moment of human forgetfulness.  Since reading about food shortages in developing countries and what people eat in order to survive, I've tried to waste less food than I normally waste.  So in this case, the latter won out.

I feel slightly bad reporting that the burger was amazeballs.  Thinking back on this, there is probably a lot to unpack here with my heart condition as I carry out these Lenten commitments.  There are probably also issues of grace with myself for making mistakes and not believing that I am lovable and that God's mercy is greater than uh, accidentally ordered, rationalized-ly eaten burgers (and other worse-er things).  Still, I tend towards the legalistic side of following commitments and Church teaching acknowledging the importance of actually following them.  Sheesh, kind of a rough day.

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