Chocolate, ahh, food of the gods! There I was in a chocolate-makers kitchen in a tiny town in Alaska, nestled beneath snowed mountains, the kitchen of a real chocolatier who makes 17 kinds of truffles. Can heaven come any closer than Belgian dark chocolate blended with Alaskan berries—salmonberry, nagoognberry, cranberry, cloudberry, blueberry---enrobed in white chocolate, or combined with a champaign reduction filling? For breakfast?
Cocoa’s botanical name is theobroma, meaning “food of the gods” and that morning, just yesterday, my feet touched Mount Olympus as I nibbled the samples he kept pressing upon me. Then two more were given to take home. But it soon became lunch and there I was in my hotel room, hungry, and didn’t those last two truffles just sing out my name over and over! (Yes, with a lisp. It’s hard to sing “Leslie” when you’re made of melty chocolate.)
And all was well for a few hours, which was perfect since my husband and I were hosting a “Meet and Greet the Candidate” event in Cordova. Smiling, shaking hands, taking photos, answering questions for two hours, and just as it ends, it happens. We are at a book reading now, the first time I’ve sat since morning, and it begins. The heart palpitations, then the aching pain in the shoulder radiating down my arm, the headache, the sudden fatigue. I am so sick. I have to go lie down. Right now.
I stumble out of the reading, holding my arm.
If it were the first time, I might have thought---heart attack? But then I remembered----the chocolate.
I know I will not die. I will be sick for a couple of days, but it will, in some ways, be worth it. (Oh those truffles were SOOO good!!)
But how could I forget this? How many times has this happened? Over the years, I’ve even missed a plane or two, unable to travel after one bite too many. Clearly I am more mortal than most mortals, far too week for the theobroma, the botanical name for cocoa, literally “food of the gods.” The darker the chocolate, the more the theobroma. Some people have been rushed to the ER for a heart attack----and undergone expensive invasive tests not knowing their candy was to blame. I resolve (again) to limit myself to milk chocolate (and M+M's) to remember my fragile mortality.
But who likes limits? We fallen creatures don’t want any limits or boundaries. We think. Two days before, in a smaller even more remote village, Yakutat, I walked on the longest beach I’ve ever seen, an expanse that goes on for two hundred miles. Duncan and I walked for awhile on its fine sand, the only people around for many miles. Limitless.
I was nervous. I could not decide if it was beautiful or desolate or both. But even in the unceasing hiss of the surf, the coastline felt abandoned. Spruce trees littered the sand, In the vastness of it all, I felt a disturbing vacancy. Where was God? How far away He seemed this whole week. In the face of such force---those unrelenting waves across the Gulf of Alaska---Where are you, God?
Then I remember these words of Anthony Bloom,
God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him. We complain that He does not make Himself present to us for the few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and a half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer, ‘I am busy, I am sorry,’ or when we do not answer at all because we do not even hear the knock at the door of our heart, of our minds, of our conscience, of our life. So there is a situation in which we have no right to complain of the absence of God, because we are a great deal more absent than He ever is.
And is this not true? “We are a great deal more absent than He ever is.”
Could I really not see Him here? I looked again with my camera and I saw myself . . .
I saw myself in that blank desolate beach . .. .
And then I saw the frightening limitless God who breaks upon my wreckage unceasingly.
I don’t fear Him enough.
And we are now told by astronomers that there are 3 trillion galaxies out there above that endless ocean. And this number is too small, because God never ends and perhaps neither does his creation.
I stood on that vast beach, overwhelmed by its length and vacancy.
I do not fear this Infinite God enough.
That night of too much chocolate, I stood heart-sick below the starry infinite hosts of heaven for eating too much of the “food of the gods.”
This is the truth about me, about us. How fragile we are, how minute in the face of the Eternal. How much we absent ourselves from God, from God who like that ocean never stops visiting us, never stops breaking upon us, never stops pulling us, one wave at a time, into his own endless sea.
How does he not tire of pursuing me?
How does he not tire of washing me clean?
How does he not tire of beating my weak mortal heart?
I neither fear nor love this God enough . . .
Can I start again?
Can you start again?
And so can you.