Some of you may have encountered “The Marshmallow Test” which was an experiment conducted in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s by Stanford University psychologist Walter Mischel. In essence, the experiment on delayed gratification in children used a simple marshmallow that was placed in front of a school age child. The child was instructed not to eat the marshmallow until the researcher came back into the room; if the child didn’t eat the marshmallow then she or he would get two…instead of just one…when the researcher returned.
There has been a revival of interest (and some debate) about the marshmallow test in recent years. In his TED talk, Joachim de Posada gives us a taste (pardon the pun!) of children’s response in a new cultural context:
(You can copy and paste this link into your browser to access the TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/joachim_de_posada_says_don_t_eat_the_marshmallow_yet?language=en)
So, what does the Marshmallow Test have to do with Lent?
Lent isn’t about our ability to maintain our Lenten disciplines. We don’t develop a deep life of faith by giving the appearance of seeming like we’re giving something up, when in reality we have spent the whole time obsessively focusing on that very thing. None of that really gets us where we need to be during this holy season.
What are we doing when we wait, with Jesus, through these 40 holy days of fasting, prayers, and repentance? We are laying aside the here-and-now distractions, and we are reconciling our daily lives here on earth with our divine potential. In other words, we are pausing and waiting so that we can come to know more fully how we are seen and known by God.
That is the ultimate delayed gratification; living into the fullness of our divine potential.