Occasionally, something comes up here in the bayous of Louisiana that remind me that I am no longer in Alabama. One of those things is the weirdness that is Mardi Gras. That's "Fat Tuesday" to you who are uninformed, and Fat Tuesday is a big deal in South Louisiana. Let me tell you briefly what it is supposed to be, and then I'll try to explain what it really is.
Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. The period of Lent is the forty days before the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus on Easter. During these forty days, if you are a good Romanist, you fast from some particular thing that you enjoy for the glory of God. That makes Mardi Gras the last day for you to enjoy whatever thing that you are giving up for Lent. So, the typical person indulges before the fast.
What all this has to do with gaudy costumes, floats, beer swilling, drunkenness, debauchery, weird floats, flashing, and ugly beads is beyond me. But it is a very important part of the tradition for many people. *Disclaimer: This is not a direct knock against Roman Catholics. This is an observation about how people act on Mardi Gras. I'm certain that I saw a Baptist on TV in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.*
The entire scenario reminds me of the impression the average lost person has about the Christian life. The lost person has the impression that being a Christian means "giving up" all the things that they love, and then for the rest of their lives they have to suffer in misery until they die. Not unlike the monks of old who beat themselves, they picture Christianity as a constant self-whipping and of being deprived of all things fun. That's why they always say that they will become Christ followers "one day", but they just aren't ready yet. Bottom line: They believe that Christianity is misery.
My life used to be, or so I thought, a constant Fat Tuesday. I did whatever my heart desired, and yet I found in those things no peace or lasting joy. The things upon which I feasted still left me hungry and hollow, and I withered as a person. Yet, I could not bring myself to give them up because these things were the only joys I knew.
Heaven, to me, was also like a perpetual Mardi Gras. It was frustrating for me to think about because I knew that the only way to get to the celestial party was to go a short time without the things that I wanted to enjoy forever. That was the period of metaphoric Lent in life when I would "be a Christian". Preferably, I would start this period after I was married, old, had a few kids, and was to wrinkled and tired to have fun anymore anyway. Then, I would entire the Lent years just before death and my resurrection to eternal youth and perpetual glutting on self-indulgence on streets of gold.
It is sad and sickening for me to remember the perverse pleasures that I once held so dear. It grieves me to see the debauchery that this season brings, not because I am disgusted by the people, but I am disgusted by the deceitfulness of the sin in which they now glory. It is pale and gross, and not even worthy of comparison to the richness and beauty of the risen Christ. They revel in it because they've never known the Savior's sweetness; they continue in it because they have not felt conviction's sting, and they will die in it if they do not experience the power of Christ's resurrection in their souls. How I pray this week that the Holy Spirit, by the power of the gospel, will heal the blindness of those who revel in the things of this world. I pray that the same thing will happen to them that happened to Augustine. He wrote, "How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose . . ! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy." May God have mercy on us and wean us from the pleasures of this world and teach us to cling to the pleasures we find in the greatness of Christ the Lord.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.