One of the things that I have been realising recently is the immense depth and richness that can be found in some of the age old traditions of the church. It seems that there is a global resurgence (at least amongst Millenials) to reclaim some of these traditions that our parents have rejected. I guess my one caveat is that I write from a predominantly ‘low church’ (e.g., baptist) perspective, since that is all I have really known first hand, so I am happy to be proven wrong by others who have grown up in ‘high church’ circles.
My realisation initially began with my exploration into theology, particularly reading some of the writings of the early church fathers. However, my latest exploration has been into the practice of Lent.
For me, Lent used to be something that ‘catholics’ did, and (ashamedly) I thought it was to do with a warped understanding of penance and grace. However, the more I reflected on my own baptist ecclesiology, the more I realised that I was getting more and more frustrated with the ‘candy floss’ that church had become. I totally believe we have traded the depth, mystery and richness of the traditions for a clinical, cold, and shallow version of church. Baptism and The Eucharist becomes ‘merely a symbol,’ our songs are all about ourselves and generally are musically the equivalent of pop songs. The preaching is often about changing behaviour, or how to be a better christian.
So, to me, Lent seemed like a great place to start to reclaim some of the depth that exists in the great christian tradition.
Okay, so why alcohol?
I decided to give up alcohol for the period of Lent for a few reasons. Part of the thinking behind Lent is to give up something that you enjoy, and something that you can legitimately go without. This then highlights to you (during Lent) the place that this has in your life. Do you miss it? Do you crave it?
For me, I enjoy alcohol – not the ‘boozer’ type of enjoyment, but I actually legitimately enjoy the fine craft behind a good wine, a craft beer, or a single malt whiskey. I enjoy the flavours and matching various drinks to various foods, tastes, and occasions. However, I also wanted to “make sure” that I could go without it.
This seemed like a great thing to give up. Not only would I be conducting a mini-experiment on myself, but I also firmly believed that the process would deepen my relationship with God.
So, how has it been?
I am now almost a month into Lent and I can definitively say that it has been fine. I have gone to bars, restaurants, had dinner parties with friends, and maintained my normal rhythm and routine of life – that is to say, I haven’t shyed away from places and events where alcohol is normall consumed. I have been content with my Lemon Lime and Bitters.
There have also been times when I have definitely felt like a cold craft beer – especially after a long week at the office, or spending a few hours in the sea. And a few fantastic meals I have had recently haven’t been quite as fantastic without the glass of wine to match. However, I have totally enjoyed the process. It has made me appreciate the ‘luxury’ of having alcohol, it has made me really think about why I like alcohol, it has also brought me closer to God – because in those moments when I really feel like a beer, I remember why I am doing this and the immensely rich tradition that stands behind it.