Haters gunna hate and it makes me a little sad each time someone slights the practice of giving up chocolate for Lent. I do it. I’ve done it since the 6th grade. I cannot come up with anything else that I have elected to do by choice every year since the 6th grade. So, why stop now? Shake it off.
The bigger question for me and Lent is WHY chocolate. When Lent and the concept of fasting was first described to me around 6th grade it was more about what would provide a daily (or more) reminder to connect to Jesus. It was also about giving up vices which is why soda took the Lenten road in the 10th grade and just never came back.
I LOVE me some chocolate. ALL chocolate. Except when it is ruined with mint.
I reach for chocolate at least several times every day. During these seasons of withdrawal abstaining, I find myself reminded to re-center upon God in little moments that might otherwise pass by unnoticed. I become glaringly aware of how often I think about, crave and do something about my love of chocolate vs. how rarely in a day I actively think about, crave and do something about my love of God.
Okay, I confess, it is not just chocolate or soda, there was one year without meat and those years sacrificing all things sweet. But Lent is about more than food (is anything not about food though?) But seriously, I also take up a spiritual practice during Lent each year as well. Anything from new daily devotionals, walking meditations, photo meditations, Hatmaker’s 7, and so forth. This year I’ve taken on a daily prayer of self-examination. I feel that I am in a place of both contentment and complacency with God and am feeling the need to very intentionally ‘check-in’. Life is in a crazy phase with job responsibilities shifting, my first nephew arriving and our own first baby on the way (hence the obsession with food?), so in practical ways God is doing a lot in my life right now.
At the same time, God also seems pretty quiet.
I just feel complacent when it comes to my own faith journey.
Then on that 13th day my Lenten journeys collided. During a committee meeting lunch.
I routinely filled my plate answering mental question as I picked up each item: will I feel averse to the taste of chicken today? Will the baked beans give me indigestion? Can I eat potato salad or is that a pregnancy no-no? Grabbed the big ole’ classic church meal chocolate chip cookie and went to my seat. After finishing the meal that passed all the tests for pregnancy eating, I cleared my plate and took a huge bite of that cookie….
Ah! Mouth. Full. I realized instantly what I had done.
My journeys had collided. I spent great mental work to determine every bite related to the development of Woodchuck (that’s our fetus’ name). I was grateful to those who prepared the meal. I was intentional to eat enough to nourish but not too much to upset the delicate balance of the pregnancy digestive system. I spent no time. No mental energy. Not the slightest thought to my spiritual practice. My complacency hit me right between the taste-buds.
So, once again I’ll let the haters hate because chocolate has opened the way for God and I to have more unexpected moments than I could ever account for. (yeah, I spit out the bite, washed my mouth immediately and waited a solid hour before going for one of the oatmeal raisin cookie…give a pregnant woman a break!)
What is keeping you from God? What could you do for these remaining days of Lent to encounter God in surprising moments throughout the basic tasks of daily living?
Do it. Give it up. Take it on.
Own it like Marion Kelly walks into a room.
Kelly Carpenter works in Faith Formation at the Center for Leadership Development of the North Texas UMC. She also serves as co-executive director of Reaching Others Through Christ Jr High Missions (ROTCmissions.org). Kelly attended Texas Christian University where she received her BFA in Theatre Scene Design. She attended Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA where she received her Masters of Theological Studies in Religion and Art. She grew up in the United Methodist Church serving on local and conference councils as a youth, working in camping and campus ministry through college and serving on local church staffs for over 10 years.