Milk & Water: A Lent Meditation

I ran across this piece while reviewing some old files. I wrote it two years ago during lent. While my drinking habits have changed since then, it’s still a sweet little piece.

“I’m a milk and water purist,” I used to tell my friends triumphantly, as if it were some kind of awana badge or the mark of an extremely refined person. I had heard the term “purist” used in relation to some other drink—probably coffee, and probably on an episode of Adventures in Odyssey—and had adopted it as a formal descriptor of my personal drinking habits.

“A what?” my friends would ask me. And I would repeat the term laughing at their incredulity. “You don’t drink apple juice? Or lemonade or pop?” they asked. I enjoyed shocking them.

It had a nice ring too it. Milk and water purist.

If I could have, I probably would have left out the water part. But I was only allowed milk at meals, and then only three cups max. While my milk consumption was more limited than I wished, my milk requirements were rather specific. Two percent. Not skim. God forbid skim. It tastes the same as water.

When I turned thirteen, my drinking-diet expanded to include grape juice, but only two ounces at a time, once a month from the tiny plastic communion cups at my family’s Baptist church. The only other time I deviated from my milk-and-water routine was by accident. One evening while at a restaurant I tried a sip of my mom’s water. But that devious little liar turned out to be sprite, not water. It bit me, I swear.

I haven’t come with in feet of carbonation since.

At college I am faced each day with a plethora of beverage options in the cafeteria, lovingly dubbed SAGA (the Soviet Attempt to Gag America). Lemonade, twenty gazillion types of soda, coffee, tea, juice, hot chocolate… I could probably drink mango-bacon-cheesecake flavored water if I wanted to. The funny thing is, I’ve never really stopped consider it as a legitimate choice.

You know how Paul commands that Christians die to sin? I wish I could be as dead to sin as I am to carbonation and mango water. Anyway.

Up until this month, I began every meal with three cups of milk carried waitress-style in one hand. On my way out after dinner, I would fill my water bottle up with—you guessed it—milk. Heck, I pay $7.50 per meal and eat one twenty-seventh of what those football players eat. I think I deserve my milk.

And then lent happened.

I asked God to help me choose something to sacrifice. He said milk.

So.

Who can argue with God?

I mean, maybe I reminded him that milk is nutrient dense and energy poor. (I learned that in Wellness 101, and it means that milk is very healthy). And maybe I reminded him that I sometimes get dehydrated and the water in the drinking fountains tastes like fish and saga water just looks nasty in those eternally dirty cups and what if the loss of vitamin D sent me into a depression? What then? I might have told him those things. Very possibly. But in the end, they sounded like pretty lame excuses.

So for these forty days I’m a water purist. When I sit down to drink my boring, dirty cup of clear tasteless liquid, I remember.

I remember that man shall not live on milk alone.

I remember that there are no substitutes for living water.

And I pray to God that he will grant me the grace to drink deeply.

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