In Defense of NOT Giving up Chocolate

We are just about a week into Lent. Our co-founder, Dan Haseltine, gives his take on Lent, and it starts with a candy bar.

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There were not many 4-letter words available to a 9-year-old boy growing up in a mixed household of Catholics and Episcopalians that could be used to express pain, disappointment, or frustration. I recall the first time I let one slip out in a moment of angst during a rousing game of indoor tag. I remember the boisterous din of the conversation amongst adults in the kitchen and how quickly it became completely silent. I was in socks and had slipped on the wood floor turning a corner to escape my cousin who was “It.”  Nothing shuts down a conversation of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents like a loud “4-letter” word proclamation from a child. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Bar soap, no matter how brightly it is packaged, is not candy.

Growing up with church tradition and liturgy pressing in on nearly all sides, the church calendar was just part of our rhythm of life. And there was one 4-letter word that I was able to say, even proclaim, that secretly held the same kind of angst, negative weight as any of the words I was not allowed to say. It was, “Lent.”

Every year, that 40-day long span loomed when I was forced to give up chocolate because “I loved Jesus.” I was “compelled” to sacrifice something in recognition of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made, which allowed me to have an Easter basket full of candy… oh yeah, and also the gift of eternal life. My understanding was probably a bit underdeveloped at that time.

It seemed a bit of a racket, this planned season where parents had the ultimate comeback to kids when we asked over and over for a candy bar during trips to the grocery store, or when we begged for more ice cream or dessert. Who could argue? What kind of logic could win over the parental ace in the hole that God and Jesus were outright asking for the sacrifice? It was akin to the often used, “Because I said so!” response that pulled the rug out from almost all kid arguments.

Maybe your experience of Lent was similar to mine. It took me a long time to find a context that truly compelled me to engage in that kind of tradition. I was in my 30s before understanding that sharing in acts of sacrifice meant finding deeper meaning in the groans and longings of a broken world and growing a more poignant way of understanding the provision of God. Whew!

Chocolate? Really? Surely there are other means. There must be other pathways that converge on that theme of revelation born out of sacrifice. I wouldn’t be writing this if I did not believe that there were other things to give up or from which to abstain or other sacrificial gauntlets to walk during the Lenten season.

If you have had the same question, this is for you.

Observing Lent: or… “Adding is the New Subtracting”

Let’s ease into this… as a bridge, let me offer a couple things that might still seem like removing or abstaining during the Lenten season.

Excluding “feast days,” drink only water. Instead of reaching for that bottle of Coke or standing in line to purchase that $5 latte, consider making a 40-day challenge out of it. AND to add HUGE amounts of value beyond the intrinsic sense of accomplishment, save the money you would’ve spent on those beverages and send it in to Blood:Water.

IF 40 days seems like a BIG step, you may consider doing, what we call 2 WEEKS of Sacrifice! Same idea, only a bit shorter timeline. We won’t laugh or roll our eyes at you, or make jokes about your inability to make it a full 40 days. We promise. We can’t vouch for your friends or co-conspirators who take the challenge with you. IF that still seems like a lot, just trade one beverage a day for a glass of water.

Keep track of how much money you saved by skipping that latte or beer, or unicorn horn infused energy drink, and donate it to bring clean water to three villages in Rwanda!  What is cool about this is that it STILL allows parents to irrefutably deny their kids at least one high-fructose, corn syrup-enriched, rocket booster of an unnaturally blue-colored, brightly packaged, and criminally sweet drink per day! And let’s be honest, everybody wins.

LENT practices do not have to be confined only to things we remove from our daily routine. Sometimes we have the privilege of sacrificing our trivia. In other words, we ADD meaning to our day.

Things like handwriting a letter to someone every day for 40 days, or taking a slow walk as a means of practicing skills of observation and presence. It can also look like adding stories to your family dinner table. There are so many inspiring stories of people in Africa overcoming the challenges of poverty and disease. Those stories have implications for us in our own lives and can often add perspective that weaves itself into our overactive sense of entitlement or unquenchable consumer void. Stories like these can rescue us from our trivia.

People often ask me what “Blood:Water” stands for. Why that name? I think there is a lot to say about those two words. In the Christian church, we have come to understand the weight of those two substances especially in the seasons of Lent and on into the remembrance and celebration of Holy Week. We are mindful of the sacrifice, and, in particular, the moment when Jesus was pronounced dead by the observation of blood and water drawn from his pierced side. It was a pronouncement of death leading to life.

Could it be that those very substances—clean blood (blood free from HIV) and clean water—could resurrect families, villages, and communities to live and thrive? It can.

Join with us this Lenten Season. May our sacrifice also be for our gain. Let our generosity be our rescue. And… go ahead and eat that chocolate bar.

Dan Haseltine, Blood:Water Co-Founder

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