I am giving up wine for Lent. And maybe longer.
I am more curious than convicted in this decision. Two significant conversations collided into my world uninvited the past few months that compelled me to consider my wine-ing.
At a Christmas open house, a spunky millennial gal I casually know started a conversation with me about her drinking.
“I have enjoyed a glass of wine every night for years. I think of it as my European connection, you know, kinda glamorous and cool.”
“So since you are a counselor and life coach, I want your take on if I should stop. I think God told me in a dream to quit drinking for one year. This seemed radical, so I told Him I would stop until the end of 2017. What do you think?” Her sparkling eyes looked expectantly at me.
I was intrigued and we chatted further.
A new counseling client came to see me in January. She was rebounding from a serious health decline lasting five months. After a dozen or more medical tests and appointments, no one could tell her the cause of her exhaustion, depression, and high blood pressure.
“I told all the doctors my complete daily routine, including 2-3 glasses of wine each night.”
I kept my face devoid of surprise that this lovely, fit, educated, articulate, cheery 70 year old had such a commitment to alcohol.
“No one found alcohol to be negatively impacting my body, not in the liver or kidneys or anything visible to them.”
“But, in my prayer times this fall, crying out from the couch, feeling so hopeless and fatigued, I believe God told me to stop drinking. So I did, and now months later, I am better!”
What God Said Matters Most
Both of these women enjoyed freedom from any drinking guilt or church-related taboo. They are strong Christians and know their Bible. These determinations to stop wine-ing came from personal messages from God to them in rather supernatural ways, one in a dream and one during an intense prayer session.
The younger wife and mother told her story to our congregation over the church’s website as we were challenged to a 21-day fast in January by our pastor. He asked each member to pray for personal and corporate repentance and to fast in some manner to heighten spiritual awareness.
Her testimony stated, “I realized my no-wine December was really a fast. Saying no to drinking was saying yes to other things like more sleep, more intentional conversations and prayer time with my husband, better health, and clearer direction for the next steps of my life.”
Further, she added, “I tried drinking after the New Year, but God woke me up one night and asked me what I didn’t understand about ‘not drinking for one year.’ Now I am committed to abstain all of 2018.”
“It was like a mask came off when I stopped drinking,” said my older client. “I began to remember past traumas and events with great emotion and unsettled feelings. It caused me to seek you for counseling to analyze what is happening and how to respond.”
For three sessions we checked on her emotional work regarding past painful experiences and forgiveness of herself and others. She described her grief process over several disappointments and harsh realities that did not match earlier hopes and dreams and never could come true at this late season of life. I found her reflection efforts healthy and helpful to her continued wellness.
“I plan to continue this path of no wine for a few more months until I feel as normal as possible. The increased sensitivity continues to surprise me and requires new acceptance of the woman I am when not under the influence. But I am choosing to embrace it and listen to what God wants to speak to me without any hindrance. I may return to wine someday, but never to the extent I drank before.”
While I have never poured myself a glass of wine daily, some nights I loved to turn on jazzy music, sip a glass of Merlot while preparing dinner, or drink with friends on a weekend. Not thinking I had issues with alcohol, I took note of these women’s stories popping into my life.
Additionally, I confess I abhor the current culture of greeting cards, aprons, kitchen towels, clothing and jewelry that depict a female-wine-relationship that is oh-so-sophisticated and required for a good time. What happened to women gatherings over cups of tea and fresh-baked desserts?
At my church’s Ash Wednesday service, I felt that God invited me to join my two brave and disciplined Christian sisters in their no wine-ing commitment. But I had questions:
Why would God call me to this fast? What does He want to tell me?
Maybe by Easter, I will have an answer. Maybe not. Nevertheless, I will follow His lead, listen with expectation, and trust Him for the results of my Lenten sacrifice.
Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.