Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Denying Myself

I am angry today. Something happened that truly rubbed me the wrong way. I am offended and feeling intentionally slighted. I don’t want to forgive. I’m not ready to forget. I just want to lay under a comfy blanket on the couch and stew and pout.

But today is Palm Sunday and Family Mass at my kids’ school’s church, and even though it’s snowing like crazy in the middle of April, I have to get up, get the family ready, and head to church. I am snappy. I can feel it. I am frustrated. I’m wearing it all over my face. I sit at the edge of my pew and recognize feeling both angry and ashamed of my anger as I listen to The Passion being reenacted.

I’m almost in tears, but I feel self-conscious because I am not in my home church and Catholic mass has never seemed as emotionally tolerant as a Baptist service. I don’t want my kids’ teachers or their friends or their friends’ parents wondering why I’m crying in the corner of my pew, so I drop my head, listen, and try to get myself together.

I’m thinking about my anger and the sin of willful lack of forgiveness. I’m thinking about all the things I’ve done to make God angry and how he has forgiven me. I’m thinking about Christ carrying and being crucified on an undeserved cross for someone like me, and the shame mounts.

The priest begins his homily, and I realize that what he is sharing is from a scripture I just read with new meaning last week. I perk up and listen with ears of recognition. He asks, “What does Jesus require of those who desire to follow him?” The congregation and I say, “deny yourself and take up your cross daily.” He encourages us to say it louder, and we do.

I remember how I started my weight loss journey, denying myself ginger ale and fruit juice and later the meats and sweets I enjoy, and I know that I, too, must deny myself the ironic pleasure of being angry. I recognize the difficulty because I “deserve” to be angry. But then I remember Christ, who prayed so hard that God “remove this cup from me” till his sweat was like “great drops of blood falling to the ground.” Christ who deserved to glorified and honored said, “nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.”

So I get home and nap in a hard, sobering sleep, and I awake and remember my charge. I do want to follow Christ with everything I have in me, but there are some things I need to do first…

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23)

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