I observe Lent every year. I'm not Catholic and I know that my salvation rests in God's grace alone, but Lent gives me the opportunity to focus on the sacrifice that made my salvation possible. I spend time praying and thinking and praying some more about what I should give up or take up. I've given up bread which was difficult. I've given up reading for pleasure which I thought might be the one I could not complete. I've taken up blogging and walking. The daily focus required by Lent allows me to grow as a Christian every year but this year's answer to what to give up still made me hesitate, it made me want to beg for another option, it made me realize God had a message to share with me. I gave up chocolate for Lent.
I love chocolate. This is not an overstatement. The aroma of it makes me smile automatically. The smooth texture of it is luxurious. The taste of it in its many incarnations is delightful.. I could do a riff on the many forms of chocolate that would make Bubba jealous that he only got to speak about shrimp but I will restrain myself to simply say... I LOVE CHOCOLATE.... How will I survive 40 days without my staple? The answer to that is easy, I told myself. Every time I want chocolate, I will focus on the greater picture of Jesus' sacrifice. However, God is a master teacher. He told me to give up chocolate understanding it would be hard, but also knowing I would be surrounded by it. He didn't want me to simply focus on the sacrifice; He planned on using Lent for a 40 day object lesson.
Every single one of us is a sinner. We were born sinners; we will die sinners. The only hope for us is God's grace. We ask God to forgive us and beg to be covered by the blood of the Lamb. He does this willingly because He loves us. However, then we go about our daily lives doing whatever. We say we cannot help it and God will forgive us anyway. Sin is a choice though. Every time we sin, every single time, we side with the devil. We choose to sin. What does this have to do with chocolate? Simple, in my 40 day object lesson, the Master teacher is illustrating this choice.
When we accept Christ as our savior, we know that there are certain big things that we are walking away from. Because everyone feels convicted about different things, I will stick with the 10 commandments, tithing, growing as a believer, and witnessing. I think these are the basics. In my Lent lesson, these are represented by the obvious things. No Hershey's kisses, no Valentine's Day candy, no chocolate cake, no Oreos, etc. I am giving up chocolate for 40 days so obviously I understand that I cannot go grab a handful of M&Ms. This is basic commitment. However, sin is everywhere and it is unbelievably easy to slip up.
I had to work registration this past week. The faculty met with each student and a paretn to discuss class choices for the next school year. Because we would be working through dinner, the administration provided sub sandwiches and cookies for us. A co-worker was eating cookies and I asked if I could have one. They were soft warm chocolate chip cookies. Was I thinking about Lent? Nope. I was sitting there laughing with co-workers, waiting on parents. In other words, I was going about my daily business. I took a bite and it was delicious. Almost instantaneously, another co-worker declined a cookie saying he had given up sweets for Lent. Jolted, I spit the bite of cookie out and sputtered "me too!" I had almost broken my promise because I wasn't paying attention. Lesson two... God knows we are going to mess up but we have to keep our focus on Him.
I was shaken that less than a week into Lent, I had almost failed. I take this sacrifice seriously. God is amazing. He revealed the lesson plan to me. I'm supposed to think about my response to sin throughout this process. It's not about chocolate at all. Chocolate is just the vehicle He is going to use to demonstate the lesson. This is why I was able to withstand gobbling up any of the miniature candy bars that were in bowls all the way down the conference table at the board meeting I attended yesterday. Four different flavors - all of which I enjoy - were right in front of me for the taking as were homemade chocolate chip cookies and chocolate doughnuts. I almost laughed at the excess of it. The sad reality is that there is a buffet of sin available for us to participate in every single day. We have to trust in the Lord to give us the strength to say no to it.
I cannot wait to see what chocolate lesson God uses to teach me tomorrow.... and I really cannot wait until Easter when I plan to eat M&Ms and Hersheys kisses and Dove chocolates and a solid chocolate Easter bunny and a huge slice of chocolate cake.... MMMMM.... Did I mention I love chocolate?