Anticipating caffeine withdrawl

Skipping a Lenten fast is even harder than skipping morning coffee.

Guest blog by Beth M. Knobbe

Isn’t it ironic? 

Here I am, sitting at my favorite local coffee shop (you know the one with the green and white mermaid logo) warm beverage in hand, writing this reflection, and counting the hours until Ash Wednesday. It’s ironic because I’m about to take a 40-day hiatus from my hard-to-break habit: coffee.

Admittedly, I am not my best self for the first 3 days, and God bless my co-workers who have to deal with a cranky colleague who otherwise always has a smile on her face. I’m actually looking forward to this java fast, as I have for the past several years. Giving up coffee is not only good for my health, but after 40-days without my morning pick-me-up, I’ve discovered that it’s good for my soul.

Let’s be honest, when I skip the coffee and switch over to water, I feel better! The fix for being tired is not an extra shot of espresso in my latte. What I really need is a good night’s sleep!  When I take better care of my body, it makes it easier to be attentive to the people around me. In those short-fuse moments, I’m more likely to ask for forgiveness, I slowly grow in patience, and I recognize my need for God’s mercy. 

I’m embarrassed to say how much of my personal stewardship goes toward supporting my coffee addiction. When I stop biding time at the local grind, I become more conscious of my spending habits. After Lent is over, I grant my saving to Catholic Relief Services or the farmer’s cooperative in Nicaragua affiliated with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation.

Several years ago, against my better judgment, I decided not to give up anything for Lent. In the midst of a difficult career transition, I reasoned that there was enough instability in my life. Surely, a self-imposed caffeine withdrawal would only add to the chaos, not resolve it. Looking back, Lent wasn’t quite the same.

I found myself working a bit harder to embrace the spirit of Lent. Praying about the Pascal Mystery was not the same as practicing it! When Good Friday finally rolled around, I found myself mourning my career losses, letting go of certain aspirations, and releasing relationships that were lost as I moved from one line of work to another. I wonder if I would have embraced my grief sooner had I been willing to let go of my morning cup of joe.

Today, as I look forward to another Lent, I think I’ll go for the free refill and savor one more sip. Because for the next 40 days, I will be fasting from my caffeine habit with the hopes of feasting on God’s grace.

Beth M. Knobbe lives and writes from her home in Chicago, and she also serves as a campus minister at the Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University.  Beth is the author of Finding My Voice: A Young Woman’s Perspective and forthcoming Party of One: Living Single with Faith, Purpose, and Passion (St. Anthony Messenger Press). She blogs at

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