For Lent, I gave up baked goods, especially in a coffee shop context.  I slipped once with two girl scout cookies which made me feel sick.  For the most part, though, I have stuck to my commitment and I have felt clean inside and a little skinnier and I saved a bunch of money.
Since Easter Sunday, I have had a few muffins and other baked glutinous non-vegan items because the season of my abstention had ended and I wanted to experience those particular tastes again.  Fair enough.
After going without these foods for forty days, my body is much more aware of how it is affected by them.  I have discovered that I don’t like how I feel when I eat foods that are bad for me.  All right! I exclaim, I learn something again!
In this whole process, I am not really surprised by what I learned.  What strikes me most is my manner of learning.  I could have read about the effects of gluten and baked dairy on my body.  I could have objectively looked at the impact on my bank account.  I could have been purposeful about eating healthy foods instead.  All of these I’ve done and they have been effective means of learning, but they don’t do a thing for curiosity.  I only see that I am ready to give up these particular items after experiencing their effect on my person.
I think this is true for more than just pastries and more than just Lent and more than just me.  I think we must experience things in order to learn from them.  I think we must encounter our limits and weaknesses to know where they are.  We cannot be told what our limits and weaknesses are by another and to a certain extent we cannot be told what is right and wrong for our selves.  (Yes, it is always wrong to kill someone, no we should not jump off buildings just to experience gravity.)  There are some universal truths and limits for everyone, but they are not many.
In most cases, we must experience a thing to know if it is safe or not, healthy or not, good or not.  After we experience a thing enough, we know about it and that knowing does not go away.  Until that time, if we follow someone else’s experience of the same thing, we’re only following that other person’s experience.  In a sense, we’re only mimicking that other person and not being ourselves.  Very likely we will come to the same conclusion about the experience as someone we trust.  But at least then it would be our experience.
Ok…I know this isn’t a perfect thought and I know it has limits.  I’m an addictions counselor…I know it’s not as simple as I make it here.  So I’m not talking about everything and I’m not talking about everyone.  I am suggesting that we be bolder with ourselves and seek to enrich our lives with experiences.  We might be surprised what we can do, what we can learn, and the places we will find truth and love and satisfaction.
So then let us face our world with boldness.  Let us embrace our experiences with courage.  Let us regard our senses and perceptions with a cautious honor.  Let us always remain teachable and always remain learners.  In all that we do, see, hear, touch, feel and remember, let us be mindful of God pursuing us and let us find peace…