Dessert First?

Why can’t I have dessert first, and then eat my dinner? That’s the question Leigh and I are trying to answer for our three-year-old daughter, Molly. She doesn’t quite understand why you have to eat the grilled chicken and broccoli first before you can get to the chocolate ice cream. Come to think of it, I’m not sure either.

Dessert is not the only area where we struggle with patience. For those of us who have the resources, being made to wait for what we think we should have right away can be a challenge to us. When Molly or Sydney call for Leigh or me, the expect us to show up in the next five seconds. When they ask for a snack, they don’t understand why it doesn’t magically appear in front of them. The words “just a minute” may be the most used phrase in our household.

But our impatience doesn’t necessarily go away when we leave childhood. In our instant gratification society, when dinner is ready in 30 seconds and packages can arrive the same day they are mailed, the concept of waiting for something can seem like not just an inconvenience, but a violation of our rights. When we know the ice cream is just waiting for us, it can make the broccoli taste even worse.

This is why the season of Lent is a difficult one for us. We know that Easter is waiting at the end of Lent, but we have to wade through six weeks of introspection and self-examination to get there. Wouldn’t it be easier if we celebrated Easter first, and then focused on understanding our sinfulness?

Ah yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? But if you put the destination first, you miss the importance of the journey. Before we can celebrate the joy of Easter, we must first work to understand why Easter was necessary in the first place. Lent is meant to be a time of taking a close look at our lives and the ways we have fallen short of meeting God’s expectations. This isn’t meant to makes us feel unnecessarily guilty or pour salt in or wounds. We are simply asked to look at ourselves in the mirror and acknowledge that we aren’t perfect, that we are in need of saving from our own human condition.

Only then can we fully appreciate the gift of Easter. As is true in the season of Advent which precedes Christmas, it’s only when we appreciate the pervasiveness of the darkness in our lives that we can truly celebrate the meaning of the light Christ brings. It’s only when we’ve admitted that we need saving that we can accept a Savior. Otherwise, Easter becomes another religious holiday that comes and goes without any real relevance to our lives or our faith.

Ice cream is a delicious treat, but you can’t live off of it. We need the nourishment of our meal to give us protein and energy. Likewise, while the season of Lent may not taste as sweet as Easter, it is in Lent that we can find the nourishment we need to survive both the mountaintops and the valleys of our lives.

As it stands now, there’s a good chance we may still have snow on the ground come March 23rd. I don’t remember Bing Crosby ever singing about a White Easter! But if the ground is indeed white come Easter morning, it only underscores the magnificence of that day. If a cross and a tomb couldn’t keep Jesus dead, then a little snow can’t keep us from celebrating the gift of new life, even if we have to wait a little bit longer to truly see it.

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