Friday, February 16, 2024

All about chocolate? Thought for the day, Friday 16th February

How is it going so far?

Barely three days into Lent, and I’ve so nearly failed in my Lenten disciplines already, as yesterday morning my hand automatically stretched out to take the chocolate kindly offered by a colleague after a big memorial service. Salted caramel…pretty much my favourite. Of course I’d like one…Thank you…Except…and so I remembered in the nick of  time the new law that I had established, and swerved away – my resolve unbroken even if my internal monologue was on the decidedly grumpy side.

Sometimes at the start of Lent it can feel as if we have written a whole catalogue of new rules simply to make life harder for ourselves, forbidding things overnight that had been entirely licit only the day before. Whether we are giving things up or taking things on, whether we’ve created a whole new schedule of prayer or are planning to spend 5 nights a week volunteering for some worthy cause, we often seem intent on creating situations which confine us, set us up to fail, load us all with a plethora of new reasons to beat ourselves up.

So – is that really what it’s all about. Lent, a season to make ourselves as miserable as possible and, as a result, to make those around us pretty miserable too? Is the idea that I should become a kind of penance for my nearest and dearest?

Well, obviously not.

While Lent can look like a kind of spiritual assault course, one more desperate attempt at self-improvement at which we’re bound to fail, that’s never the point. Yes, we are called to amendment of life..Yes, we should expect to learn some important truths about ourselves in the coming weeks…but the point of it all is to enable us to focus ever more deeply on God and God’s love.

A  long time ago, I asked a group of primary school children what they thought Lent was about.

“It’s spring-cleaning for the soul” said L – and for me, that hit the jack-pot. This is our season to give up, not just chocolate, but all those things that get in the way so thoroughly, to declutter heart, mind and soul – to attend to those matters that really need attention…Remember, though,  it’s not the obedience to our own internal legislation that matters, any more than it was adherence to the full Mosaic code that spelled salvation for the Galatians.

There’s nothing we can do to make that happen...Nothing we can do to earn our seat at the table, - Christ has already done that for us and it is ours through God’s grace…

But we CAN use these coming days and weeks to strengthen our faith, as we learn to be God’s people once again, touched by God’s love and enlivened by the Spirit. With an agenda like that, chocolate probably doesn’t matter.




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