There are five Sundays in Lent, and this is the third, which means we’re approximately halfway through. Did you decide to take on any kind of Lenten discipline this year? How’s it going? If you’re “succeeding,” what (or Who?) has made that possible? If you’re “failing,” can you have compassion for yourself, and pick it up and try again?

I’m doing surprisingly well in my Lenten observance of fasting from sugar. I’ve also learned that a very close cousin of sugar is refined flour—I’m craving white bread for the first time in years. Usually I can pass it by with no problem, but it appears that those refined carbohydrates still have a hold on me at some level.

This transference is not unusual; whenever we are able to let go of something, we usually discover that there are other things hidden underneath, waiting for their turn for our attention. I’ve often had this happen when I’m getting a massage; when one muscle relaxes, another says “What about me?” That’s the way of the spiritual life as well. As soon as we think we have one aspect of our spiritual lives “under control,” something else jumps out and says, “Okay, it’s my turn now!”

I believe that all of this is the Holy Spirit’s way of keeping us humble and honest about our need for God. In the same way that we rely on each other in community, if we are honest, we cannot do it all without help. We were made to be social creatures.

Does your Lenten discipline have a social aspect to it? I thought mine didn’t, but then I realized that sugar addiction is so common in our culture that by speaking the truth about my Lenten discipline I might well be raising awareness in others of their own addictions.

bee and rosemary flower And then there’s the healthy relationship with sweet things, which is at least one of my ultimate goals. There are bees all over the blooming plants in our front yard. The honey they make is not an addiction; it is essential to their survival.

What is truly essential to your survival? In what ways have you covered it up by focusing on other things—perhaps one or more of those addictions I’ve been talking about? Is there a true hunger for God lurking under one or more of your other hungers?

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