Normally Lent is a time of giving up control to God and recognizing our limitations. It's a time of being still and taking stock of our sins. We repent, we fast, we take on disciplines.
It's also my favorite time of year. Odd, that a time of darkness is the time I feel closest to God. I've known God best in the darkness of depression than in the times of unspeakable joy. As we slowly make our journey to Golgotha and the Crucifixion of our Lord, we are entering into some incredibly dark time.
The word 'discipline' is not a word that seems friendly to many ears. It seems so dry and dead and ancient. This year I have focused on dietary discipline. Meat only once a day and never on Wednesdays and Fridays. Candy is out (except when I fail, which happens). The whole eating-for-God plan has worked well in unexpected ways.
For starters, I realized just how powerful food is. In our culture of abundance, most do not worry about from where the next meal will come. It's just there. Food is also powerful in our bodies. We break it down for energy, and it also makes our brains very happy.
As I've had to be very deliberate about my dietary choices for these past few weeks, I've noticed just how little I think about them. On feast days this Lent, I've suspended the discipline since, well, it is a feast! One morsel of chocolate leads to another and another. None of them really satisfied, but my brain would insist that one more piece, one more handful would be just dandy.
Mindful eating requires a lot of control and a lot of restraint, and it gets harder to restrain oneself once that first sweet has been eaten. Just one! I tell myself. But that one is unsatisfying without its brethren. They, too, must be eaten. Before long a container of delicious chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs is gone.
There's been some joy in discovering that I can say no to those impulses. When I remind myself of my discipline, it feels great that my mind does not revolve around that sweet I'm denying myself. When I fail, I have to dust myself off and try again. God doesn't get furious when I fail in my fasting; God wants me to take control of this part of my life so that it doesn't take control of me.