All over the world, people are getting fat today. Because today is Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins our forty day march to the cross of Christ and we mark tomorrow with ashes.
Different cultures were busy baking their sweet tradition yesterday, making them ready for eating today. The delicious, jelly-filled dough balls covered with sugary glaze are called Paczki (punch-key) by the Polish. The Germans call them Berliners. The Austrians call them Krapfen. My kids call them “yummy”.
Some smile and joke about storing up today because tomorrow we fast—from feast to famine in twenty-four hours. We give up a television show or chocolate or meat or something else for forty days just to remind us that Christ gave up His life—for us—for me. We store up today just in case there is deprivation tomorrow. What we need is horse sense . . .
I look at my herd eating the provision I give them and they each take it gratefully. I don’t find them stealing or storing or fretting. Noses to the ground, heads bowed in gratitude, they take what they trust I will give, morning and night, every day.
I look at the birds on my way back from the barn, eager to land on the feeder I just filled. They have no storehouses. And yet their heavenly father causes the sunflowers to grow in my summer garden to heights of ten feet and more, heads heavy with seed. Yellow gives way to food for the birds when all is white, cold, frozen, in this march onward toward the spring we believe, by faith, is coming.
The barn cats? They’re a different story. Phil, the black and white one, weighs in at nineteen pounds and the vet tells me he really should go on a diet. He’s a pig, really, not a cat. As if Phil doesn’t get ample food poured from my hand each day, he supplements with fat mice to the point where he looks like he just might explode. Maybe he fears I might not provide? Today, I did. But what about tomorrow? What about the uncertain future? Maybe he thinks he needs to store up in his own body, just in case his provider forgets to feed him, or worse, becomes purposefully stingy?
Am I a cat-woman? Do I think like a fat cat and gorge myself with fear and doubt and mistrust, making sure I give myself what I THINK I need, what I THINK I want, what I THINK will full-fill me? Or am I a horse-woman, trusting. The answer, if I’m honest?
I’m too fat. I gorge myself on my chosen idols while starving myself of the choicest provision.
You? What if we all got fat on grace instead?
What if we gorged on grace instead of food or pleasure or success or possessions or comfort or hate or unforgiveness or others’ opinions of us? What if we feasted our eyes and hearts just on Jesus crucified—on God’s glory and grace?
We would find ourselves full-filled. The ever-leaking holes of our hearts would heal up and our ever-constant soul hunger would stop. We would find ourselves so full-filled that we couldn’t help but spill over our excess onto a soul-hungry world. We would show them the way to find food that fills souls as well as stomachs and drink that quenches thirst once and for all. On and on the process would go and we would all discover that there is no scarcity of grace—only abundance. When we all stop grabbing for more than grace, we will discover that grace is all we need, even more. We will find that grace is all we really want.
He’s all we need, really. He’s all we really want.
Shall we all get fat on the grace of God as we keep our eyes fixed on the cross of Christ? Shall we fix our eyes on our oh-so-near provision instead of on what’s right in front of our faces?
And then let’s watch the world swell around us, not from starvation but from grace-full provision, given in abundance to all who will believe and receive.
I don’t want my animals or our wildlife to get fat on food. I want my animals and our wildlife to get fat on grace. I want them to get fat on gratitude, knowing their every need will be supplied by the one who loves them and cares for them and that they don’t have to do a thing to earn my care.
I choose to love them because . . .
I chose them to love.
And I will love them regardless of anything they do.
They need look no further than the hand that feeds them, always on time, always in perfect proportion.
So this morning of Fat Tuesday, I enjoyed the last of the Paczki with my kids and husband, feeling no guilt. For even if I had no sweets, I already have and will always have something sweeter. Those the Lord loves lack no good thing.
When we know God’s grace, we need know nothing else.
And this is gospel truth.
This is true life with God.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Helen H. Lemmel, 1922