The last day of lent – what giving up has taught me

Today is the last of my 40 days of lent – the last day without chocolate. Let’s see what I have learned about myself (and my faith) during these days and what has helped me through.

Life is like a box of chocolates - even when you try not to eat them. (pic by Simon Howden)

Having seen what Muslim believers go through during their month of Ramadan, I wanted to really try this year and test whether I can live by the rules of my ‘light-version’ of fasting.

Even though the rules of the original catholic lent aren’t too harsh (no red meat on all Fridays, only one meal and two snacks a day), I think it would be rather hard to live by that in a society that believes less and less – even when you’re doing it for yourself.

I already felt that with chocolate – not eating it made me feel rude sometimes. For example: I got some chocolates as a gift from a friend and just put them away when I got home.

When she asked me how they were I told here I wasn’t eating chocolate because of lent, which made her say a slightly embarresed ‘Oh’. (Do vegetarians feel like that all the time when people serve them meat because they don’t know better?)

I almost failed

You wouldn’t believe how many things have chocolate or cocoa in them. And even white chocolate did count into the pile of products that I decided not to eat.

But: Sometimes you can’t help it.

There was white chocolate on my ice-cream and there was chocolate powder on my cappochino. I got rid of as much as I could, but I am sure I had some.

Also, there is this fabulous bakery in my home town in Germany, Café Wild, where they offer hand mand chocolates.

And I admit that I bit off one corner before my friend pointed out that it was chocolate. But what spirutual blogger Marc Cardaronella points out makes me feel ok about that:

“You’re human! You’re going to fail! What counts is that you fix it and move on, knowing you’re prepared for bigger trails down the road.”

What helped me through

Luckily, I had found out just before lent started that the Sundays don’t count as they are the days of rest.

If you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday you will find it proven that these days are 40 days plus the Sundays.

So, every Sunday (sometimes starting at midnight), I was allowed to have some of my beloved chocolate which would help me get through the rest of the week.

What also helped was that I didn’t do it alone. Giving up something as a team protects you from your weaknesses (and occasional brain tricks of just forgetting).

Of course, I also had the strong determination to test if I could do it and the will to say no to chocolate no matter how tempting it was.

Why I did it

I did it because I believe. It is part of my religion, the 40 days standing for a period of being tested before getting the ‘greater rewards ahead’, as religious blogger Melaenchanted puts it.

Here are the examples from the Bible that Melaenchanted has collected which underline this theory:

  • In Noah’s time, it rained 40 days and 40 nights before God wanted to cleanse the world and start over.
  • Noah waited another 40 days after in rained before he opened a window in the Ark.
  • Moses’ face shone after 40 days in the mountain.
  • The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, one year for each day they explored the Promised Land.
  • Jonah warned the City of Nineveh they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city. The people re´pented in those 40 days and God spared the city.
  • Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness.
  • Jesus was seen in the earth 40 days after His crucifixion.

I don’t know in how far giving up chocolate can be compared to any of this and if I really have been taken ‘closer to the edge’ as Cardaronella says by going through lent.

But I can tell you that it felt right to do it. It reasured me that I am in control and that I can make and stick to a choice even though I am surrounded by temptation.

And now

The experience of sticking to my decision of not eating chocolate for 40 days as a sign of solidarity and as a challenge to my own willpower was great.

I now know even more certain that I am able to deal with rules and sacrifices in order to achieve whatever I want to.

The thought of ‘Life is too short to miss out on something you love for 40 days’ crossed my mind several times.

But then I thought that I get a whole year of knowing that no matter what the conditions are, I can count on myself and on the people around me to support me and go through it with me.

Lent has shown me that I am surrounded with people who believe that I am worthy of being supported in my decisions and that together with them I can do anything.

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5 Responses to The last day of lent – what giving up has taught me

  1. Sebastian says:

    Giving up on chocolate for lent (which isn’t exactly true because of the Sundays) was a “challenge to your willpower”? Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill…

  2. Sebastian says:

    That bad, huh. 🙂

  3. “It reasured me that I am in control and that I can make and stick to a choice even though I am surrounded by temptation.”

    See, that’s the whole thing! You were in control and stuck to it! Every little time you do that in the spiritual life, it strengthens you a little more against temptation and prepares you for bigger trials. Someday you might have a huge temptation that will be difficult to avoid or give up. If you build your spiritual muscles by regularly making small sacrifices for God, you’ll be in the habit and will be able to make larger sacrifices for him.

    Thanks for the shout out! I really appreciate it! Glad you liked the post.

    • Hi Marc. Thank you for your very nice comment. I think you are right about ‘training the muscles’… I just hope mine are well trained when I need them. God bless you!

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