Who likes eating chocolate? Most of us, probably, if we’re honest.
My love affair with chocolate started with the simple ‘one finger of chocolate’ bar that I was allowed after lunch in early childhood. Since then, I’ve always enjoyed tearing open the wrapper and the shiny foil inside and sinking my teeth into that delicious, melting softness.
A few years ago, when I took an exam at the end of an Open University course, I couldn’t believe that I was allowed to take some chocolate in with me. (At school and college, we weren’t allowed to take any food or drink into the exam hall.) I bought the largest sized bar of my favourite fruit and nut chocolate and started unwrapping it before the exam started ready to take full advantage of this situation.
Unfortunately, I realised immediately that the rustling and tearing of the foil was going to be too distracting for everyone near me: the quieter I tried to be, the louder it sounded. I went through the three hours with the chocolate so tantalisingly close yet so unobtainable. When the exam finished, the man sitting in front of me turned round and said, “What did you think of that?” to which I replied, “Would you like some chocolate? Take as much as you like”, now desperate to get rid of the sticky, melting block.
I have an even more fraught relationship with boxes of chocolates. Recently my husband, Paul, arrived home from playing in a bowls tournament with not one but two boxes: his share of his team’s prize for winning the competition.
While I was pleased that he and the team had been successful against the odds (being one team member short), I wasn’t as overjoyed with the prizes as he was probably expecting.
Although I enjoy bars of chocolate, I struggle when someone offers me an open box of chocolates and I’m given the chance to choose one. Why? Because, looking at all those squares and rounds, sometimes in individual fluted paper cups, some with decorative chocolate icing on top, I can never decide which one to take.
Looking at the card or leaflet which shows the flavour of each doesn’t help; it only makes things more difficult. It’s not that I’m indecisive, rather I’m afraid that I’ll be swayed by the appearance, or even the name, into making a choice which will prove disappointing.
How often in everyday life we have to make a decision or decisions based on selecting from a range of options. So many of these can seem attractive but prove to be disappointing, even dangerous, once selected.
If I see my spiritual life as a box of chocolates, full of options, some immediately tempting (the gooey, melting soft centres) and some more challenging (those dreaded hard centres) which ones do I pick and which do I avoid? Which ones should I pick and which should I avoid?
It’s so much easier to go to a joyous Easter Day celebration service or the packed candle lit carol service, with its cosy familiarity and friendly faces, than work through an Examen or Lament prayer practice alone.
Yet, each is important. The variety of the chocolate box is one of its strengths. There is something for everyone and it’s the same with our Christian lives too. What appeals to one person won’t appeal to another. We have our own strengths and weaknesses and together we make up a perfect selection. We all have the same coating through the Spirit and we’re all equally attractive and desirable to God.
Perhaps, from time to time, we need to step back and look outside those things we are naturally drawn to – our first choices – and try something different. Let’s be willing to be nudged towards things outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we may damage a tooth on an unexpectedly hard centre but we may also develop a deep love for something we didn’t expect to find to our taste.
And, as an extra incentive, there’s no calorie counting required! There’s no limit to the amount of treats we can take from God’s box. He delights in us taking as much as we can of Him.
Pass the chocolates ….. Oh, and mine’s the coffee cream!