Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Weighing In On Fat Tuesday

My wife Holly gave me a new set of bathroom scales for Christmas. I love Holly, but I have not yet warmed up to these new scales even though we have a daily up close and personal encounter with one another. Here’s the problem: My old set of scales could be counted on to give me a range of daily readings from which I could choose the number that I wanted. While on the scale, if I posed like Ralph Macchio of the Karate Kid facing down his enemy, I could usually cajole that old scale into taking a few pounds off that we both recognized were there. We both knew it was a lie, but that old scale wouldn’t bring it up and neither would I. It was a lie that friends keep between themselves for the sake of the relationship. But the new scale (a more upscale scale – an electronic version) doesn’t understand my need to have some flexibility in my daily weigh-ins. I stand on it and within a few seconds a number (which I rarely like) is illuminated. If I step off the scale and then on again, the exact same number lights up as if the scale is saying: “How dense are you, anyway? You couldn’t read it the first time? Try me again, Tubby, if you have the guts, and I know that you do.” If the reading on my new scale is too disheartening, I sometimes seek out my old friend who usually gives me at least one lighter option. But I have to tell you that as much as I love that second opinion that I am beginning to understand that it isn’t all that helpful or healthy for me. As hard as it is, I am beginning to accept the new set of numbers as representing the way things really are rather than the way that I want them to be. It is not easy to be confronted with the facts, is it? It is hard to face the truth about ourselves whether that truth is our weight or something else. Most of us prefer to have at least a couple of options from which we can choose, from which we can construct the version of ourselves that makes us look the best. But if we want to be healthy, and if we want to be free, the truth has a way of grounding us in reality and providing us with a clearer sense of who we really are and what we face. Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free, and after we get over our shock and denial, we begin to recognize his wisdom. One of the many things that I appreciate about Lent is that it can offer us a daily reality check about how we really stand with God and with one another rather than how we like to portray ourselves. Those who give up something that they value for Lent will be faced with deprivation and denial and the inevitable question: “Do I love this thing more than I love God?” Those who create more silence in their lives for this season will end up hearing voices that they usually don’t hear – either the sound of their own heart or the voice of God. If you are willing to listen and to be open to the facts about who you are and where you stand, the season of Lent can lead you “from the unreal to the real, from darkness into light” as they say at the end of a yoga session. Lent can be an up close and personal encounter with God. Entering into Lent is not for the weak-hearted or for those who love the darkness more than the light or the lies more than the truth. If you allow it to do so, Lent has a way of accurately assessing you even if you are tempted to stand in a Karate Kid position to obscure the facts. So on Fat Tuesday, let us gather as many opinions as we can about who we are. But let us have the courage to step on a set of more truthful scales tomorrow.