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Monday, October 19, 2009

Cross Of Toothpicks

Okay, I'm gonna come right out and admit it. No spin, no excuses.


I am a lousy sufferer. I'll complain to whomever will listen. I stink at it. I avoid it. Mortification? I cross the street to get around it. Self-denial? Whowherewhat'sthat?

I know it's good for me - it's downright necessary. Christ tells us we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow him. The last part, that I can do. It's the first two conditions that I'd rather just pass on, if I could.

But I can't. My spiritual life needs a kick in the pants, and I'm wearing the pants.

I'd like to say that by denying myself self-denial, I am in effect embracing self-denial. But it doesn't work that way, I know. Sure would be easier though, if avoiding temptation and avoiding mortification were synonymous. I'd be halfway there.

The older I get, the more I realize how important self-denial is in deepening one's spiritual life. I mean, it's not even Lent, and I'm talking about giving stuff up? On top of that, the older I get, the more entrenched certain habits become - and it's those habits and tendencies that can get in the way of drawing closer to God. Stupid.vicious.cycle.

Despite my poor efforts in the past, which were poor mainly because I relied on my own strength, it's time to try again. Nothing big, mind you. I'm kinda like St Therese on this suffering stuff - I'm not capable of large sufferings. Although it's probably more accurate to say I'm not willing to endure any sufferings, large or small, or deny any of my desires all at once (or at all!). I have got such a long way to go that I had better just start on the small things and work my way up.

So starting today, I'm shedding one of my tiny pleasures out of love for God. It's so ridiculously insignificant, I'm almost embarrassed to talk about it.

No more Diet Coke. In fact, no more soda period. Yes, this will be healthier for me, and yes, it will mean saving some coin - but those are secondary benefits. Thing is, I drink that stuff like water, when I really ought to be drinking more water. My habit's not all-consuming and overdone - at least I don't think it is - but I consume on average two 20-oz bottles of the stuff every day. It used to be worse - it used to be Mountain Dew.

So, for a few days, I'll struggle to prevent the SpongeBob Crabby Pants within from erupting uncontrollably, which will be an unfair burden on my family if I'm not careful. But once the caffeine withdrawal subsides, normal human behavior should resume. Provided I don't fall asleep at the wheel and veer off an exit ramp somewhere first.

Like I said - it's a small small step. It's a cross of toothpicks. On the order of grace, it ranks pretty low. But if I approach this life change with great love, as St Therese exhorts us to do, then in time, I'll be able to handle greater expressions of self-denial.

Such as giving up watching hockey....well, next season. Maybe.