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Lenten Reflections: What Does Drinking Wine Have to do with Needing God?

When 5:00 rolls around, I want a glass of wine. Especially if it's winter and I'm home alone with our children and it's dark outside. I started to notice this desire a few months ago. I had this niggling warning in the back of my brain about it, but I pushed it away every night. It's only one glass, I told myself. At least most of the time . . .

Then, in early December, I was staying with an old friend on a work-related trip. I got to her house around 6:00, and she asked, "Do you want a glass of wine?"

I paused before answering, because I was surprised to discover that I hadn't thought about wine at all that afternoon. She, the mother of four children, said, "I've already had mine."

And we confessed to each other that persistent desire–as the days grow short and we find ourselves preparing the kids' dinner while also managing playdates and homework and fussy babies–that persistent desire to fill a glass with wine. "It makes me feel like an adult for a minute," my friend said. "It's something I can do just for me in the midst of doing everything for everyone else."

I nodded my head. The reason I didn't want a glass of wine that day at her house was because I had been on a train all day. Six hours of time to do whatever I wanted–read, write, pray, journal, eat, sleep. The night promised more of the same–dinner with an old friend, uninterrupted sleep, a bathroom all to myself.

When I returned to our family,  I made a few changes–signed the kids up for gymnastics and Music Together so we weren't stuck at home every afternoon, talked to a few other friends who were aware of the same pattern in their lives, and I also started to pray about it.

For a while, I continued to justify the behavior. If I didn't have small children, I reasoned, I could do something else–go for a run or talk to a friend or take 20 minutes to read a book. But pretty soon I realized that drinking wine was allowing me to short-circuit something God wants to do in my life. I was drinking wine instead of admitting my need for God's help, instead of facing those humbling moments that arise almost every day, when it all feels out of control–the dishes and laundry and cooking and cleaning and bill paying and doctor appointments and general responsibility for three small children. Having children has the potential to chip away at the integrity of my life, to wear down my moral compass, to dull my sensitivities to the Spirit. But it also has the potential to bring me to my knees in a way little else ever has.

And so, this Lenten season, I am choosing to fall on my knees. Which for me right now means forgoing the 5:00 glass of wine. (For others, I suspect the temptation to avoid dependence upon God shows up in very different ways.) I'll still drink wine on social occasions, and hopefully be quick to thank God for it. But when I feel as though I need it, I will admit instead that I need Him.

I came across Acts 14:17 this morning, when Paul and Barnabas explain God as the one who "provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." I trust that in humbling myself before the Lord, admitting my own neediness and dependence and frailty, I will know Him not only as the one who provides what we need in a material sense, but as the one who provides what I need in every sense. I trust that I will know Him better as the Lord of joy.

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