Two of the things I gave up for Lent were watching television and eating desserts.
Today is the third day of Lent – just the third day.
Yesterday, I ate lunch at my new favorite Indian restaurant. I had forgotten that the lunch special comes with dessert, and didn’t think twice when it appeared with my lunch. It didn’t dawn on me until I had taken the first delicious bite. And, yes… I only took one, unfortunate, bite. But, I did take a bite. Why did have to taste so much like forbidden fruit?!?
While my TV at home hasn’t been turned on in three days, I discovered TVs broadcasting today where I went for lab work, at the restaurant where I had breakfast, and even on the gas pump where I filled up. As hard as I tried to avert my eyes, and concentrate on something else, it just kept drawing me back.
Obviously a single bite of dessert and a little TV exposure isn’t a terrible failure that will cause me to lose my salvation – at least I hope! I didn’t MEAN to eat the dessert! I didn’t turn those TVs on! But, it occurred to me today that, even in small things, there are temptations everywhere to hedge, to cheat, to compromise… to see how much we can get away with.
I think that’s how temptation works. Temptation rarely shows up in obvious ways; with horns and a pitchfork. Temptations, for the most part, cause us to act in ways that we are barely conscious of; that hardly even seem like cheating; and, yet, slowly cause us to compromise our best intentions. We may not be in danger of a disastrous fall – but stumble enough times and you just might…
C.S. Lewis wrote, “The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Thankfully, there is grace that covers stumbles and there is grace to try again tomorrow and there is grace to be strong in the face of temptation.
Nevertheless, temptation is everywhere. And, as Jesus warned, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”