Over the past number of years, I have experimented with different ways of observing the season of Lent. I have abstained from certain things (for example, one year I left face book, never to really ever return ;P) or engaged in certain things (one year I chose to meditate on a portion of scripture that became increasingly meaningful to me: "Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." Matthew 11:29, The Message. Taking 40 days to prepare my heart to celebrate the miracle of Easter (formally, I suppose, since in some ways we celebrate RESURRECTION and NEW LIFE every day!) truly deepens the lessons and story and reality for me.
This year, consistency has not been my strong point. I am learning to find the grace to accept doing whatever I can, the best I can, when I can. It is not an easy lesson. I am learning that my half-hearted attempts are not enough; nor is getting bogged down in going through the motions just to put a check mark on the list.
I started off Lent with the desire to carry a cross henna-tattooed to my wrist. A constant reminder. HOWEVER, as I quickly discovered, I was having to re-apply the henna frequently - like every couple of days - and soon I decided that this was not the season for me right now.
Part of me felt ashamed - like I had not fulfilled a promise I'd made.
Part of me thought "realistically" - maybe you should research this a bit more to see if there are ways to apply henna so it lasts longer.
Part of me looked at the whole scenario - and thought about how aptly it can resemble my spiritual journey - good ideas and meaningful activities come along, yes; thought through entirely, maybe not; desires that dwindle after the effort of work begins. Hmmmm.....
"Well ... you've got kids ... and time is scarce and all...." Yes. We have three beautiful little girls. And, Yes. They do require time, and it's true that we don't get anywhere in a hurry (except we DO get in a dither if we hurry and that's no fun at all!!). But there is still time here and there for things that matter. No, the assault has been on energy and attentiveness, a consequence of a very intense sinus cold that has left me (all of us, actually) staggering some days, and fatigue as sleep issues have surfaced again and again. And again.
And, maybe you can relate. (And if you can't, consider yourself ... blessed ;P.) The internet, and the whole blogging sphere in all its fabulous wonder and glory, can fill your head with so many good ideas and things you want to do and try and even self-induced pressure from seeing what others can "get accomplished" in their own homes - for me, if I succumb to the temptation to compare, it can become messy. Those are all good things (well not ALL things on the internet are good, obviously, but those are not the things I am talking about here!!) and I truly celebrate those who are crafty and artsy and fabulous in ways that I can only dream of being :). But if I am not careful, my dream-of-doing-this list soon becomes longer than my things-that-need-to-get-done-in-order-to-maintain-order list :) and I feel overwhelmed. Silly, I know.
In retrospect, Lent has taught me a few crucial lessons:
1. Keep it simple. The message of the cross is not complicated - it is profoundly simple, though staggering in its reality: "For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16. Live it, breathe it, seek it every day.
2. Keep it present. There is a season for deeper reflection, and a time to just go with it. When we come with a willing heart, God is ready and able to meet us right where we are. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20, 21.
3. Keep it real. I stumble, I fall. I get impatient, I get grumbly, I overlook (or outright ignore) opportunities to serve my Heavenly Father. I commit to a henna tattoo for 40 days and I don't follow through. And yet, there is grace to begin anew, for which I am thankful. "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." Acts 3:19.
With this in mind, I embrace the celebration of Easter.