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Maybe it was because I’ve been surrounded by Muslim and Hindu friends whose lives are often ordered around their fasts. Maybe it was because I knew I was struggling emotionally and spiritually and needed something to shake me up. Whatever the reason, as this Lent approached, I felt like I needed to participate. To fast from something.

I decided to give up chips, soda and chocolate bars. It didn’t sound that spiritual to me. It seemed like a very body-focused Lenten fast… was I in this thing just to lose a few of the winter pounds? Not eating chips wasn’t going to free up a whole lot of extra free time in which to tackle one of the devotional books blogs and articles about Lent were recommending.

We don’t usually consider food a matter of spiritual focus. Especially as an American – I find it very easy to disconnect normal body activities like eating, sleeping and exercise from my spiritual life. But now in the middle of my forty days without chips and chocolate, I’m finding my spiritual life is just as happy about the fast as my physical body.

Since the chip bags here are just a little bigger than the “single serving size” you get at US picnics, eating a bag or two a week didn’t feel like such a big deal to me. Wouldn’t I normally eat that much with a sandwich at home?

Except that I wasn’t eating them with a sandwich. I was buying a bag at two in the afternoon. It was emotional eating.

Stressful day? Stop by the little old man’s store on the way home to bury your sorrows in a bag of “American Sour Cream & Onion” chips (which, actually, taste nothing like the American version…).

Long week? Better your mood with a Cadbury’s almond chocolate bar. (Aren’t there endorphins or something in chocolate?)

8pm and already exhausted from the three different guests that dropped by the house in addition to your two Hindi classes? Stay awake a bit longer to watch a comedy with your roommate with a bottle of Sprite.

When I gave up those three crutches for Lent, it forced me to find better ways to deal. Stressed? Pray, journal and read Scripture. Long week? Become more serious about taking a Sabbath rest and using it well. Exhausted? (Novel idea!) Go to bed!

It’s in these simple, physical changes that I’ve met God. I’m actually awake for my devotion time in the morning. I’m in a better mood more often. I’m actually happy now when a guest stops by unexpectedly.

And all this from trading chips for a journal, chocolate for a Sabbath rest and Sprite for an early bedtime?

I should’ve tried Lent a while ago…

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