I remember the first cell phone that I ever had. It was exciting to finally be a part of the cellular world that wasn’t tied down with wires and cords. After a while it was hard to imagine my life without one.
But there was a fear that I carried along with that cell phone — running out of battery life. If you have an iPhone or an Android, you probably still share this fear. So I bought extra chargers that I could put in my car and take to work with me. I wanted to make sure that anywhere I went, I could fill my battery back up. And I did – I plugged in every chance I got.
But what I didn’t understand is the effect that all of that recharging had on my battery. Because every time I would fill up my battery without running it down, I was slowly taking away its ability to hold a charge at all. Eventually, my battery would only last a few minutes before being completely drained.
All of that filling up eventually left me completely empty.
Today, the last day before the season of Lent, is commonly known as Mardi Gras, or literally “Fat Tuesday”. It finds its origins in the days before refrigeration. As people anticipated the fasts of Lent, they felt the need to consume everything that would spoil during the lean weeks. The idea was to get your fill and celebrate before the coming season of deprivation and devotion. To feast before the fast.
But these days we don’t have those same challenges. We associate Fat Tuesday with the Mardi Gras parades and hedonistic revelry in New Orleans. With plastic beads and beer. It’s a big final party before some some days of piety.
We live in a world that is constantly filling itself up. Very few of us know what it truly feels to be in need. Our environment is one of clutter and noise and instant gratification. In our fear of being empty, we continually constantly consume. Our batteries are always full, yet we keep recharging them.
And all of our filling up leaves us incredibly empty.
The truth of God is often seen in paradox. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you. A baby king in a manger.
And Lent breaks into our world of fullness with another paradoxical truth: It is only in emptying ourselves that we can truly be filled. The fasts and self-deprivation of Lent are not simply acts of piety to fulfill some spiritual obligation. It is an intentional emptying of self to make room for the Spirit.
Because without death, there is no resurrection. And if we never empty ourselves, we can never be truly full.
So as Fat Tuesday beckons you to plug in, we invite you to let your batteries drain a little through the observation of Lent. May we all give up some of what is sucking the life out of us and allow God to fill us up again with love and joy and peace.
May we find our batteries filled by letting them empty.