What Are You Giving for Lent?
Last spring I decided that I would give up slave-made chocolate and I invited other people to join me. It happened to be around Ash Wednesday, so it became a sort of Lenten observation, and a number of friends, family and readers jumped on board.
Now it has been a year. A whole year! It’s been a year since I purchased Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (my favorite) or ordered chocolate cheesecake at a restaurant. And I know that’s true for a few of you reading this as well who have sent me pictures of slave-free desserts, and blogged from cocoa plantations, and humored my love for finding new fair trade brands.
And so last spring was an easy Lent. While other folks were denying themselves through meat, coffee and sugar, I was living out the film Chocolat by gorging myself on every brand of fair and ethically traded chocolate I could find. It was a spiritual experience, of sorts, but certainly not because I planned for it to be.
I underestimated how meaningful it would become to make this choice – a choice that affects other people’s bodies as well as my own. Every time I eat food grown and sold in ways that condemn injustice, I am building up my own body with more and more compassion.
Over the months that followed Easter last year I learned about atrocities caused by the banana industry, about the coffee also grown by slaves on cocoa plantations in West Africa, and the rampant spread of AIDS in impoverished tea farming communities. Our pantry looks very different today than it looked a year ago.
And as Lent comes back around, I can’t help but be a little reminiscent about the journey.
This year I’m hoping to observe Lent in a way that provides some healing from a very difficult battle with seasonal affective disorder. It falls at the wrong time of year for me – after overcoming such a tough winter, self-denial is not on the top of my to-do list. I am giving up a few things, and taking on a few as well in a forced embrace of a better, sun-filled season. But I won’t be giving up chocolate, because eating chocolate has become much more in our home than enjoying an occasional sweet. It has become a tangible, year-long Lent. A fasting from at least one injustice.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isa. 58:6)
I encourage any readers who also observe Lent to consider:
Christians claim to celebrate through the Easter season a person who sacrificed his life for the salvation of many. So how can Lenten sacrifices somehow offer salvation to many as well? We are giving up for Lent, but what will we be giving?
Are you observing Lent this year? What, if anything, are you giving up?
How could the observation of Lent offer relief or salvation to people in need?