Tip Toeing Towards Easter Together
I remember as a young man of seven back in 1960 being asked a question on the playground of Foxcroft Elementary School. The query was launched by Tippy-toes Walther. Tippy-toes nick-name was derived from his peculiar walk. Everywhere Tippy-toes journeyed, he went on the very tip of his toes. Best anyone could tell, Tippy-toes’ heels had always been born- airborne. No one knew why, not even Tippy-toes. And when he suddenly stopped this peculiar mode of personal transport sometime during the third grade- it was too late. He was going to be Tippy-toes Walther for life, or at least until he moved or graduated from High School.
Tippy-toes was Catholic. We were more acquaintances than friends. I was a protestant and from a republican family, so Tippy-toes had two strikes against him. Not only was Tippy-toes Catholic, he was a democrat. So in 1960 we really couldn’t be friends. Anyway on this particular day, at this particular recess, Tippy-toes and I were talking and that is when TT popped the question. Since, as I sadly recall, I considered myself superior to TT, being both a protestant and a young republican, I was embarrassed that I didn’t understand his question. “Fogerty, what are you giving up for lent?” I said, “What?” He replied, “You know, what are you giving up for lent?” Even though I was a lad of seven, I had already learned the valuable staling technique of answering a question with a question. “What are you giving up for lent Tippy-toes?” I shot back. “Coca-Cola,” he answered without bating an eye. “Oh”, I replied. I was saved by the bell as recess ended and I sprinted with unusual enthusiasm back to Miss Dobbs’s second grade classroom trying to figure out what lent was, and did I need to give something up?
After my bus ride home that day tin 1960 I ran up to my mother and blurted out, “What’s lent and do I have to give anything up?” She explained to me what lent was and why as Protestants, we didn’t trivialize lent by giving up things like TV, coke, or coffee. No, we understood how much Christ had given up in the incarnation and we were called to give up our lives, not coke, for forty days. “Great”, I replied feeling angry with myself for ever, even for an instant, letting Tippy-toes feel like he had the upper hand.
I don’t know what happened to Tippy-toes, but I know what happened to me. My spiritual journey has led me to have many Catholic and many democratic friends. God’s not through with me mind you and I hope that at my funeral there will be a more democrats and maybe even a Russian Orthodox or two along with a couple of free-will foot wash Baptists and libertarians. Along the way I have picked up an appreciation for lent. These forty days before Christianity’s biggest celebration, Easter, is an important annual opportunity given to those who are engaged in the glorious yet daunting task of following Jesus. Many unfortunately, don’t grab hold of the opportunity the Lenten Season affords.
During the last forty years I have done a lot of thinking about Lent. I learned that my mother was right and my mother was wrong. Some years I have kept, by the grace of God, a good Lenten Season. Other years I have not, blasting into Easter Sunday un prepared with a somewhat empty feeling. Wanting an emotional, soul thrilling response as I sang, “Up from the grave He arose!” but feeling numb and distant from this wonderful celebration of a real time and space resurrection; the most important event in history. There is no flatter feel than the flatness of being numb on Easter.
The purpose and privilege of lent is for the believer to take an spiritual check up and examine his/her spiritual journey and to hopefully make the necessary adjustments. We all need this. To celebrate a real Easter, we need real preparation. We need real repentance. We need real reflection. Just as the Advent Season properly gives us a “ramp up” to Christmas, the Lenten Season of forty days gives us a specific time to prepare our hearts for the real joy and celebration of Easter. If you don’t prepare for Easter, don’t count on enjoying a truly meaningful worship experience. It will be just be another Sunday albeit with a bunch of lilies and too few seats with no place to park. How sad- and I’ve been there done that. Perhaps you have as well.
So I encourage you to take advantage of lent this year and use these forty days wisely. Get ready for Easter. Prepare yourself. Give something up as a tangible reminder to you of what Jesus gave up. Whatever you abstain from for this brief period, done in the right way, by the grace of God, can be a catalyst for spiritual renewal. And we all need that. If you give something up for lent, keep it to yourself- between you and your Lord. I know by personal experience how pride looks and works with any toehold available. Giving something up for lent can provide such a toehold and defeat the whole process… so beware! But do it anyway. Fore warned is fore armed. Just as God is in the business of making beauty out of ashes, Satan has always been in the business of reverse alchemy; taking good things and making them base.
Tippy-toes Walther introduced me to Lent. His nick-name now gives us all an appropriate metaphor of how to approach the wonder of Easter. Let us do so on tip-toes, expectant, approaching Easter with care, self examination, wonder and awe. If you want a great day of celebration, give this day the preparation it deserves, on tip-toes, with deliberate expectation. If you do decide to give up something for lent, although it is a small thing, maybe it is the baby step you need. It could catalyze you to get back to the business of giving your life to Jesus to do as He instructs on the big things. Because on that issue I think we all tend to be Indian givers.
“Fogerty, what are you giving up for lent?” Thanks Tippy-toes; Peace of the Lord.