The Journey Through Lent for today says; "Lent is a season for self-examination. Not always fun but necessary." As a bunch, we humans do tend to do just about anything we can manage not to have to stop and look at ourselves. I had that very conversation in two different contexts with two very different groups of people yesterday. It came up in a group I facilitate when a young woman in the group asked my thoughts on why she could not stand to be alone with herself. She says she has to have someone with her, or noise, or preferably both at all times or she feels like she is going to come out of her skin with anxiety. She sleeps with the TV on, always has a radio going, never, ever, has silence. We also talked about it in the group that is gathering in support and prayer for our spiritual disciplines during Lent. We were talking about fasting, how countercultural it is, and that it seems like part of the reason for that might be that it runs counter to that whole business of keeping us away from whatever it is that might be at our center, that we might find in stillness if we stop and examine ourselves.
I think part of the problem lies in the fact that at least at some point in our lives so many of us think that we are truly, at bottom, shameful horrible people, tried, judged and found wanting. By ourselves, by others, and even, truly sadly, by God. Not of course that this is true, but this is the message we heard. Whether it was the one that was intended to be communicated....it was the one that got through. And if this is who you expect to meet if you go to meet yourself....well, finding any way to avoid that seems perfectly sensible to me. So why be silent or fast, pray or meditate, or engage in any other kind of behavior that might bring you in any kind of close proximity to yourself? Seems like it would make a lot more sense to find anything at all that would take you as far as possible in the other direction.
The idea of being compassionate with myself was a pretty revolutionary one for me the first time I heard it. Some days it still is. Even though I always knew in an academic kind of way that "God is love" I continue to wrestle sometimes with the fact that part of the great commandment to love as God loves includes loving myself. I'm still connecting the dots on the fact that acknowledging myself as sinful is not shameful but joyful. The Lenten disciplines all factor into that.....trust, submission....definitely a connection, as well as the self-examination that today's Journey talks about. The traditional disciplines like fasting and prayer are circumventing the all-too-human urge to run from myself and give in to the old shaming voices and instead take the time to stop and breathe and remember again who God is and who I am in relation to God....known, beloved and saved by....and so Lent goes on.