Alongsider Briefings: Reflections of a Life Lived with God

It’s time for a chocolate break!

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Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is. I love chocolate especially dark chocolate. I love chocolate even though it has little redeeming nutritional value.

My friend Nate debated me on this point. “The cocoa bean has proven nutritional value,” he said. “It probably does,” I replied, “but do chocolate covered caramels, double chocolate fudge ice cream, or chocolate brownies have nutritional value?” 

What these foods lack in nutrition they make up in taste and enjoyment. Each is on my Top 10 chocolate list! Sometimes we just need something sweet even though it’s not healthy. After all, God made the cocoa bean and declared it “good.”

Eating chocolate is a useful metaphor for putting balance into my life. Sometimes it’s good to do things because we enjoy doing them even if they have little apparent “redeeming” value. Our lives today are flooded with one crisis after another, one pandemic after another, and one moral failure after another. It’s time to take a chocolate break.

My ability to enjoy chocolate tells me something about my picture of God. My early spiritual development was shaped by discipline, sacrifice, and limits around my desires (Romans 6:12). These are all good and necessary things to do to grow. After all, Jesus instructed His disciples to “deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). But the Bible often has more than one side to obedience; pleasure and delight make up the other side.

Chocolate is not in the Bible. What satisfied the sweet tooth in the biblical world was honey. Honey’s sweetness describes the promised nation (Leviticus 20:24), God’s word (Psalm 19:10) and His wisdom (Proverbs 24:13-14). What’s naturally sweet to our tastes is a physical reminder of spiritual realities. We cannot savor the things of God until we’ve tasted His savory creation.

I appreciate CS Lewis’s insight on this subject: “For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” A scent or a tune is an echo of a higher reality leading us to the country we haven’t yet visited — heaven. God plants hints of His kingdom in the goodness of His creation — the sweetness of dark chocolate echoes the sweetness of His character.

Our Lord has given us nearly 10,000 taste buds to savor food. If he didn’t want us to enjoy taste why create taste buds? Our ability to hear is a complex process engineered to the finest detail. If He didn’t want us to savor music why give us the ability to hear? Our eyes are more finely-tuned than the most expensive camera. If He didn’t want us to enjoy a sunset, a gorgeous garden, or a delightful smile, why give us the wonder of sight?

The ability to taste, hear, and see are gifts of a good Creator (Genesis 1:25) who generously wants us to enjoy His creation (1 Timothy 4:4). His generosity makes “wine to gladden the heart” and “oil to make [man’s] face shine” (Psalm 104:14-15). Our Lord has built into His creation pointers of delight that direct us back to His majesty. No wonder that the Psalmist declares, after listing God’s wonderful creation, that “O Lord, how manifold are your works!” (104:24). Delight should lead to worship.

Our Lord did not have to create sweet things to taste or beautiful sights to see or gorgeous music to hear but He did and we need to take time to enjoy these simple pleasures. Eating chocolate reminds us of a generous Creator.

What chocolate breaks am I taking these days?

  • I read books that have no spiritual depth or ministry relevance. I read them because I enjoy them. One current book is Baseball’s One Hundred. The author lists and describes the one hundred top baseball players of all time. No deep lessons but lots of fun for baseball fans.
  • I pet my dog. Ginger has ears that are like soft velvet to the touch. I love the feel of stroking them and she loves the sensation of being petted.
  • I love my wife Peggy’s voice and laughter. There’s something special about her voice’s tone. Having a good laugh together (often at my expense) is a highlight of my day.
  • I dream spaghetti. Pasta and marinara sauce don’t fit into my Weight Watcher’s program but I sure enjoy good Italian food.
  • Nothing beats dinner out with friends. Many times we don’t talk about deep spiritual issues but joke and have fun with each other. What completes an evening is a good game of euchre.
  • Listening to music played loud is a guilty pleasure. I only listen to vinyl played on my 1978 vintage Yamaha receiver (weighing over thirty pounds) linked to a quality turntable. Settling back in my chair and allowing the music to wash over me is pure delight.

All of these are my chocolate moments. They’re delightful interludes in an often intense and structured day. However, there’s still the nagging question, “But what about dying to self and crucifying the flesh?”

Of course I struggle with over-indulgent tendencies. I can eat too much chocolate and pasta; I can spend too much time listening to music. I must make choices to die to these self-indulgences BUT God has another side to this life of obedience.

He’s designed us to enjoy the little things of His creation, to savor the delights of taste, touch, smell, hearing, or sight — the small gifts that point us to His Kingdom. Eating chocolate can be an act of worship.

So, what are your chocolate moments? What are the little things you delight in that refresh and remind you of God’s Kingdom? Give yourself permission to eat some chocolate this week . . . and reflect on the generosity of a good God.

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks for the welcome devotional moment. I do enjoy a “spot” of ice cream often, scented candles, and even the lovely snowscapes!

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