Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chocolateness - God, Life, and Everything

I write a column called "God, Life, and Everything" for the Hudson Valley News. The title reflects the broad scope I want to take. Everything in life falls under the eye of God, and if we watch carefully, we can catch a glimpse of God in it all.

It’s day 21 of my chocolate withdrawal. So far, I’ve held strong, but I feel trapped. The wolves of Hershey and Mars are circling, circling, tempting me to come out for just a nibble. Their powers are strong, and if I venture toward them even a step, they will have me in their jaws.

So, I resist and wait throughout these cold, hard days and nights called Lent. Someday, relief will come. Either I the pangs of chocolate withdrawal will subside, or this season of chocolatelessness will pass. The only question is, will I survive until then?

Of course I will. Giving up chocolate for Lent is no big deal, when you think about it. It’s just something I tend to consume rather thoughtlessly far too much of the time, and I wanted to use this period of self-examination and self-denial to become a bit more intentional about what I consume.

I’ll bet there’s someone asking right now, “Do people still give things up for Lent? I thought that went out with Disco.” In fact, throughout much of my youth, it was fashionable to say, “Don’t give something up, take something on for Lent. It’s much more meaningful.”

While I won’t deny that taking on a spiritual discipline like bible reading, or extra prayer time, or service to others is valid and valuable, that is something that’s appropriate any time of year. Why wait for Lent to do that? Scripture reading, prayer, service, among a whole host of other positive actions are things we are even called upon to do all of the time. That’s the bulk of our lives as people of faith.

But to give something up? That’s Lent.

If it seems like I’ve spent the last few columns musing on the nature of Lent, it’s because I have. There’s a part of me that resists the speed with which we live our lives. Like Advent, this is a time to slow down despite the frantic pace of the world. Yet, here we are in Lent, packing on extra meetings, classes, retreats, planning for the summer. If there’s anything we need to do in Lent, it’s step back a bit and look at our lives.

To do that, I’ve given up chocolate, which is always around – at the grocery store, the convenience store, the hospital gift shop – as a little reminder of what I need and what I don’t. I thought about giving up meetings, but I realized that wouldn’t be a sacrifice at all. I thought about giving up my cell phone, too, but I’m not that strong.

The wolves of chocolate still circle but with help and a renewed sense of priorities, I’m sure I can hold out till that blessed day in April when the thing we’ll be reminding ourselves of isn’t self-denial but joyous life that knows no bounds.