I’m kind of crappy at being Christian.
Well, I have a lot of the New Testament stuff down pat. I often turn the other cheek. I love you all the way Jesus loves me. I really, really like parables. And Paul’s letters. The dude can write.
The old-school stuff gets me, every time, though.
I wear a shirt and tie for Easter, get all reflective when we sing “Silent Night” at Christmas Eve mass, and back when I was a Catholic, I would eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday like a good disciple.
Some areas have proven troublesome for me, in my fifth official decade, B.C. I sometimes root against the New Orleans Saints and Notre Dame. I’d rather eat cookies and play disc golf after church than attend a committee meeting. And I sometimes often do the sign of the cross Mary Katherine Gallagher-style.
Forgive me Spirit in the Sky – I’m a work in progress. But as the song says, Jesus is just all right, and he understands, in all his New Testament tolerance. I believe that.
I particularly struggle in the Lenten season.
For the uninitiated, Lent is 40 days preparation for Easter, and we don’t mean painting eggs. It means something different to everyone. It’s most famous for the sacrifice of alcohol, soda, cursing, chocolate – you know, the things that give us the most pleasure. Vices, for short. I knew a dude in college who gave up his bed for Lent. That’s 40 days sleeping on the floor. I know Jesus has a wink and thumbs up for creativity on that one.
No one can top the Prince of Peace, by the way. His 40 days in the desert without food, water, or spring training updates, punctuated by a visit from El Diablo himself … let’s just say God’s son set a pretty mean standard. It’s like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. Only bigger.
I have great intentions during Lent of giving up vices. I’ve narrowed my failures to just five, listed here. I hope Jesus will at least get a kick out of it, and when I do get to Heaven, he’ll put an arm around my shoulders, introduce me to George Carlin, Alexander the Great and Natasha Richardson, and say “hey y’all, you have to hear this!”
Maybe Paul and I can write a blog together.
Forgive me Lord, for I failed at giving up:
I don’t try this one anymore, but in my youth, it was my staple. My dad would reward my gut-wrenching sacrifice with either a fifth of root beer or a beautiful six-pack of root beer bottles on Easter Sunday.
During my “sacrifice,” though, I had school assignments to struggle through, deadlines to meet, and other pressing matters, so I leaned heavily on tall drive-thru sweet teas to get me through. And got a good dose of type 2 diabetes free, with purchase.
Imagine 960 consecutive hours without a sliver of cheeseburger on my lips. Cruel and ridiculous. But I would do it. No beef. I felt like Ghandhi. But early in my sports-writing career, I attended a media luncheon for the state basketball playoffs, in Hickory, during Lent. At a steak house. (No, it didn’t occur to me.)
Before I knew it, a waitress had plopped a plate with a steak on it so vast it rolled off both ends of the plate. (Yes, I think about it often.) Rather than send it back, and be, you know, rude and unappreciative of God’s mercy, I savored every delicious bite in thanks to Jesus for creating cows, and promised a do-over. Starting tomorrow.
3. Fast Food
Stock prices suffered during Lent for McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell. I put them all through the sacrificial experience of Lent, whether they were Christian or not. The resourceful mind my Heavenly Father blessed me with helped to set the boundaries: If a restaurant has a drive-thru, it’s fast food, and forbidden.
Good thing the Chick-fil-A in the mall didn’t have a drive-thru. Yes, I considered it the sacred cow. If only I used my powers for good, and not evil …
I’ve a bit of a potty mouth around grown ups sometimes. I really try to keep it holy around the kids, and I do a much better job of washing up the language around my soccer teams. It’s not cool when your team gets smacked on a Saturday, and the coach drops blue language all around the pitch.
Within 2 minutes behind the wheel, or two holes on the disc golf course, though, I sound like Adam Sandler in “Happy Gilmore.”
5. Being kind
I’m a nice dude. I tipped a hair stylist 20 percent after she butchered my hair and shaved my head to fix it. I worked free hours in the middle of the night for every newspaper I’ve ever worked for. I even share pizza with my kids. But, not unlike Happy Gilmore, sometimes, people just set me off, and in the real world, a dude can’t pull a jerk’s shirt over his head and punch him in the ribs.
Forgive me, Heavenly Father, as I silently admonish the guy who dropped a can of tuna at Food Lion, and left it on the ground. Or the lazy schmucks who parked in the fire lane in front of the store to preserve an extra precious 37 steps it would have taken for them to park with the rest of us good citizens.
I’m sorry for disturbing thoughts I had about the woman who saw me behind her in line at the 12-items-or-less checkout, glanced at the bottle of Coke Zero and frozen pizza in my hand, then proceeded to unload her 72 items from her cart.
Sometimes, God, your children really get on my last nerve. But I promise to muffle my bad words. To love my illegally-parked neighbors as you’ve loved me. And I promise, Lord, that I’ll give my heart-felt best at the next pancake dinner you set before me.