Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is a unique time for revisiting the work of the soul and taking stock of what God has done and is doing in us. Canon Renee Miller
Ash Wednesday. I woke this morning with a sense of "something's up" before I was completely conscious. That sense of a day that is just not like the others, one that has extra things to do or remember, a day that has import. "What?" my foggy brain asked. "Ah, yes....it's here." That Lent I am not quite prepared for, sure about. But ready or not, here it is. That is the way of liturgical seasons. They come upon you if you are ready or not, and somehow it's been my experience that they have turned out to often be just the thing I needed, even when I didn't know it or...um...want it.
As usual, "coincidentally" (ha!) things have been just appearing that have given me great food for thought as to "what to do about Lent." Comments from Imingrace and Beach Walkin' on my last post and a remark made by Kathryn on the Tuesday Lectionary Leanings as I thought about my sermon for tonight. Something I read on Barbara Crafton's Daily e-mo. Something C said to me last night on the phone. It's all in the mix and it's all brewing in the Lenten stew. I know this must be important because it makes my stomach kind of queasy to think about it. Always a clear sign that a) this is likely to be Big Stuff and b) I probably don't want to deal with it. So what better for Lent! So what is this momentous thing? Well, I am thinking about giving up guilt and suffering for Lent! OK, that's kind of flip, but seriously, I am thinking about working on repenting of feeling guilty about joy and trying to do as some of you have suggested and relax into God's blessings and the joy in my life.
It has been pointed out to me by a few people that I struggle with receiving, with accepting others' care for me. This is true in many contexts. I know it, I accept and I get the reasons for it. It's just plain better, easier and safer to give! I get to be in control, I get to feel good and I get strokes and brownie points besides. I mean, does it GET better than this?!? In essence, maybe I get to play God a little, really. Oh. Well, now....perhaps there is something that could use a little repenting.
I also tend to feel guilty about the blessings and goodness in my life. I've written about this before....I know it's not a good thing. I know I'm projecting here a bit, but I imagine God sometimes giving me all this wonderful stuff and then sort of going "mmmpfh!" as I respond not with simple joy and gratitude, but by going into paroxysms of guilt about not being deserving and feeling upset about those around me who are not getting good things, etc. etc. I imagine how I would feel if I went to the trouble of finding splendid gifts for someone I loved and instead of simply enjoying them, they got all strange and said "Oh, but look, you didn't give her one, or him one. " I mean really! So perhaps I could repent on that front as well.
I mentioned in the Monday post about being more accustomed and comfortable with a spiritual life based in suffering. Now it's not that I have had this horrible life. In fact, overall, my life has been pretty blessed. But like anyone who has made it past the midpoint, there has been some pain and struggle. And the last year has certainly had its share of hard times. I have pretty much always been able to flee to God in such times....to find my "wing," my safety and comfort. When I am sad, God is there, when I am anxious in the night, I know that steady Presence is with me, in times past when I felt that I was alone and abandoned by everyone, God did not desert me. But happiness? Joy? Strangely those are less comfortable for me to settle into in general, and also less easy to "ease into" with God. I truly do believe in my heart that I am God's beloved child and that God truly does delight in me. This would seem to suggest that my joys would be God's joys, too. That, God's dreams for me are those which would bring me the greatest happiness and fulfillment, and that as these dreams come to pass God would be rejoicing greatly. This suggests yet another Lenten discipline....though that seems a funny word in this context....doing as Beach Walkin' suggested, "using this season to rejoice... for all of the quiet ways God has... is... and will continue to work in you... and through you...." by "learning to sit and allow God to love me " as Kathyrn suggests in TLL, because as Imingrace said, "God has been good to you and resting in the joy of this gift is a good thing."
Amen, my sisters, that, I think, will Lent!