I grew up Baptist, but my mom was raised Catholic. Even though Lent wasn’t a huge part of the Baptist tradition, it was a part of our family’s tradition. I remember giving up things during Lent and having to explain to my friends who didn’t practice this why I would give up chocolate or Taco Bell or pop (I most likely explained this rather poorly). For me it would inevitably become one of four things; I’d either blow it all together, I’d replace whatever I gave up with something else defeating the purpose (if I gave up pop, I picked up an iced tea habit), I would turn it into a competition and focus on “winning” rather than Jesus, or whatever I was fasting from became so routine that doing it was mindless and it didn’t do anything to deepen my relationship with God. I unfortunately carried these habits into adulthood. Maybe some of you can’t relate to those struggles, maybe some of you have different struggles during Lent.

In late 2000, a movie came out that had an underlying theme that dealt with similar struggles of Lent. The movie is called Chocolat, it stars Johnny Deep, Juilette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, and Carrie-Ann Moss. And like any 20 something in the late 1990’s through the 2000’s, if Johnny Depp was in a movie, I would be seeing it. The description of the movie is this:

“When mysterious Vianne and her child arrive in a tranquil French town in the winter of 1959, no one could have imagined the impact that she and her spirited daughter would have on the community stubbornly rooted in tradition. Within days, she opens an unusual chocolate shop, across the square from the church. Her ability to perceive her customers’ desires and satisfy them with just the right confection, coaxes the villagers to abandon themselves to temptation — just as Lent begins.”

In the movie, the priest of this tranquil French town has a real problem with the idea of the Lenten fast being broken. He sees townspeople come in to this chocolate shop and indulge while he suffers through his fast even refusing to put jam on his toast. Much like I found ways to make Lent about things other than Jesus, the priest in the movie unknowingly did the same thing.

We start Lent with the best intentions, and life gets in the way. A deadline pops up at work and the time you budgeted in the morning for devotions takes a back seat to the project that is due. The kids have practices they have to get to on opposite sides of town so you find yourself in the McDonald’s drive through because you haven’t eaten since 11:30 am and it’s now 6:30 pm and you are hangry (hungry and angry) and the fact you gave up fast food doesn’t matter in that moment. An eye infection stops you from doing your small group reading that became your Lenten priority, instead of picking it up when your eye is healed you leave it on the shelf to collect dust. That fast from social media was going great until that thing happened and you had to know what your friends were saying about it so that quick peek derails your best laid plans. A million other scenarios could play out. But what if it could be different? What if we could do a different type of fast? What if instead of fasting from stuff, we focused on communion with God?

40 Days of Decrease is a book that challenges us to do just that. It offers 40 different fasts, one for each day of Lent (not including Sundays) that will “prepare us to be duly awed by Christ’s resurrection”. This book will help free us from the obligation or Lent and release us to the realities of life in the Spirit in daily communion with God. This is not an easy book, it is not an easy journey. If you are ready for something “different”, grab a copy of the book Sunday ($10 each) and join us.

Sarah Sutphin