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For Lent

March 5, 2014

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Sunday was one of those very rough days.  You know, the type of day you would like to pretend you never have.  The middle part of the day I spent curled up in bed with a book because dealing with life just brought me to constant tears.

I was exhausted, see, from that full February (and part of January) I had.  I went from one event to the next, just pushing through, until on Sunday, I was done pushing.  There wasn’t a next big thing I had to get to.  It was just normal life until the next birthday and Easter was upon us.

The tears started during the church service.  Then I had to deal with a public mistake I made, that was visible to everyone.  It wasn’t a big deal, but given my tearful, exhausted state, it was.  I had a hard conversation with a friend and saw myself in a slightly different light (not in a positive way either).  By the time we were done with  lunch, I was a wreck.  Tears fell freely and I had imagined myself dirt–a mean, bitter woman who didn’t have anything together.

Don’t be concerned–I recovered fine from that.  I emerged from my nest in my room, ready to belt out the songs from Frozen, much to the chagrin of my children who were watching the movie.  Tears were just part of my exhaustion and my recovery.

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It seems no small thing that Lent starts today—three short days after that morning I felt every bit a sinner, far from the person God has called me to me.  When I think about what sent me over the edge on Sunday, how I felt others viewed me and how that reflected on my recent words/actions, I knew what I had to give up for Lent.

In Girl Meets God, Lauren Winner quotes her priest, Milind, from his sermon about Lent:

That is how it is with the gifts we give to God.  I want to encourage you to give something to God that really matters.  Something you really love.  Something that is hard to do without.

Winner gave reading for Lent.  Her reflections on giving up reading:

[Giving up books] left me starkly alone with my life….But I also read to numb any feelings of despair or misery that may creek my way…

But I also find myself praying more because I don’t have my usual distractions.  When I am stuck in a puddle of sadness and mistakes, I cannot take them to Mitford [a book series by Jan Karon].  I have them to take them to God.

I begin to suspect that Milind didn’t want me to give up reading just because it was the equivalent of some dearly loved green sundress, but because it might move me closer to Jesus.  It might move me to my knees.

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This morning I started my annual Lent reading, Breath of the Soul by Joan Chittister.  The entire little book is on prayer.  In years past I had underlined:

To grow spiritually, then, I cannot hid–even from myself.  I must pray for self-knowledge, for the searing honesty that, with the grace of God, can bring me to the heart of God.

Self-knowledge saves us from ourselves.

I realized as I read Chittister’s first reflection on prayer how essential Sunday’s emotional experience was.  For a few hours, I had brutal self-knowledge and I was no longer able to think that I came to God as a woman who was good and ok.  I prayed repeatedly that day, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” which happens to be the prayer for today, this first day of Lent when we remember that we came from ashes and will return to ashes.  I am but dirt.  I need God, which is at the heart of Lent–the knowledge and acceptance that we need God’s wonderful, unboundless, unending love, which thanks to Jesus, we can never, ever be separated from–even when I am feeling like dirt.

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What I am giving up for Lent is two-fold.  I am giving up Facebook.  While Facebook has it’s positives–keeping up with others, sharing pictures and antidotes with my family, it also is a substitution.  I go to Facebook when I need a break, when I am exhausted, when I feel like I can’t do life anymore, or when I need acceptance from others.  I turn to Facebook instead of God, which makes Facebook a bit an idol, I believe. (A quick note on logistics–I can share this link on Facebook without actually getting onto facebook–just in case you were curious).

Second, and the more difficult practice is I am giving up the need to be always be right.  As anyone who knows me well (and probably those who don’t know me so well) knows, I need things correct.  I don’t have room for exaggerations or hyperbole normally.  Everything in speech and otherwise needs to be as factually correct as possible.  In addition, I think my opinions are the correct ones as well.  It’s not uncommon for me to push these opinions on others as fact until they too can see that my opinion is correct.  This is not a good thing.

In fact, it’s my need for my opinions to be correct (and for everyone to share my correct opinions) that was my emotional downfall on Sunday.  Not only do I seem to be a bit of a jerk in the conversations, I also am failing to follow the two greatest things Jesus called us to do–loving God and loving others.  It’s obvious how my pushiness and exactness fails to love others–in some instances, I don’t value their opinions enough to not try to convince them to see it my way.  It also ties into the whole leaving Facebook idea–that need to seek others approval.  Regardless, it’s not very Christ-like.  It also causes me not to love God as fully.  If I am always right and correct, it cuts down on the need for God a bit.  In fact, it makes a bit of a god myself.

Sigh.

I follow my rabbit trails–my connections from one idea to the next that I could easily miss if I wasn’t paying attention.  I connect Lauren Winners words to Joan Chittisters words to conversations and emotions I had on Sunday.  For Lent this year, I am giving up hard things.  For the record, I can assure you that I will probably not be successful, especially for giving up being right.  But with the grace of God, I am going to try.  I will pray about it, I will guard my words.  I will repeat today’s prayer frequently–Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily Buchanan permalink
    March 5, 2014 12:13 pm

    Your words are inspirational. Enjoy the extra time you get with God and try to be at peace. You deserve it. Best of luck in your pursuits.

    • March 5, 2014 7:07 pm

      Thanks Emily! I think I will definitely find myself with extra time. 🙂

  2. March 5, 2014 6:27 pm

    I will only say, remember to be gentle with yourself this Lent. From the sermon today, God says “yes, I love you”.

    • March 5, 2014 7:08 pm

      Thanks, Julie, I will. Thankfully, perfectionism isn’t something that usually plagues me. The sermon was a wonderful reminder that we are indeed God’s beloved children, wasn’t it?

  3. March 6, 2014 10:54 am

    I read your post right after I posted about my experience with Lent. I couldn’t remember what first prompted me to observe Lent until I read your post–it was Lauren Winner’s book for me, too! Thanks for sharing; I enjoyed your perspective!

  4. Gede Prama permalink
    March 10, 2014 1:10 am

    I really like and very inspired… 🙂

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