As a devout Christian, I cannot overstate the spiritual significance of Lent. A season of discipline, repentance, and reflection on Jesus’ forty days of sacrifice in the desert. A season so revered that 1.4 million other believers gather in New Orleans every year to celebrate it. Mardi Gras. What is spirituality without community? I cannot miss this celebration of faith. I pilgrimage to New Orleans.

On the day of the festivities, I set an alarm for my waking: 6 AM. I cannot waste any time. Every minute is an opportunity to grow with the Lord. I meet up with a small congregation of fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Within minutes, the traditions begin. Vodka shots.

I suggest starting with Bud Light. I’m quickly silenced, rebuked with a scripture I cannot place: “Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.” Ecclesiastes 9:7? I hold my tongue, refusing to risk embarrassment twice.

I will not have my passion for the Lord questioned. Not today. I down my Ciroc.

Immediately, I feel the power of the Spirit work through me. What a feeling. I must not let this leave. One shot turns into four. My relationship with the Lord grows stronger with every one. My passion for Christ knows no bounds.

By midday, we head to Bourbon Street. A sea of believers filling the street, all on fire for Jesus. Oh how proud He must be to see such devoted followers! For the next ten to twelve hours, I crush a steady stream of Bloody Marys. The Lord asks of us to drink in moderation, but how can I celebrate repentance without making mistakes? Am I doing enough? I toss in six Irish Car Bombs, two Manhattans, and a bottle of cough syrup just to be sure. His will be done. I’m also careful not to eat during the day. I can’t risk anything in my stomach working against the Spirit’s blurring, euphoric presence.

As the night sets in, I’m in awe of the way the Lord is working through his people. Not even the most beautiful harp rendition of “Hosanna! Save, Mighty Lord!” could bring out the kind of energy and unbounded passion I see in these people. Some women are so moved that they’re exposing their breasts in return for beads—a powerful and creative act symbolizing the reward of denying oneself personal luxuries.

Nearby, a woman shits in the street. This symbolism is unclear. But I’m grateful for the diverse and unique ways that others connect with God.

By midnight, the spirit has fully washed over me. I blackout. Only God knows how the rest of my spiritual journey went.

The next morning, I wake up under a dock six miles from Bourbon Street.

I’ve done it.

Death and Resurrection.

The rush of pride fades immediately, as a piercing, side-splitting headache consumes my entire existence. Fuck. Resurrection feels a lot like death.

…Is this death?

Just as Jesus was killed with stakes driven through his hands and feet, I too feel as if a stake is perhaps driven through my skull. I check. Nothing. I’m relieved. I’m also confused. How can there be no stake in my skull? What pain is this? But I trust in the Lord. Through my suffering, I grow closer to Him.

Holy shit, it is hard to be this devout.