I have never kept Lent. I grew up in a faith community that simply did not do this. We talk about fasting and repentance, just not in a scheduled manner. But this year my heart has felt drawn to a time of preparation and repentance. Perchance it began years ago with Lauren’s journey and the impact calendar, Judaic and liturgical, had on shaping her faith. Or it might be due to Father Tim’s gentle shepherding. Maybe meeting friends at St. Luke’s Anglican Church and cheering them on through hardship. Perhaps it is a bit peer pressure as so many bloggers I read are practicing Lent. Or simply because I am feeling grey and longing for new joy and hope. I want Easter to be more than another Sunday with special music and decorations. Whatever the reason for the call, I say yes. Having never done this before I thought I’d keep a diary of sorts and because I blog, well, I’m sharing it with you. I have no idea how this will turn out. Could be brilliant, could be boring, most likely somewhere in between.
Today is Ash Wednesday. Traditionally observers attend church and someone smudges ash on their forehead? I do not do this. I go for a Gilligan’s Island Hike. What was supposed to be a 15 minute walk turned into a 3 hour climb due to the need to take a different fork in the trail because a small earthmover blocked the short path. I come home sweaty but exhilarated at the challenge met and begin to read my blogs.
And Ann says “grief is what cultivates the soil for the seeds of joy.” I stop. Sit. Copy and paste. This grief I’m experiencing, could it be preparing me for great joy. Or is she talking about a different kind of grief, a chosen path? Then Nic writes “I yearn for springtime in my spirit” and my own soul groans in agreement, but how to even go about this? So I comment. Sweetly, unexpectedly Nic responds with some resources. But I am late. Lent has already begun and I don’t have the slightest idea what to give up. And I like to do things completely and start from the beginning and fill in all the boxes and I am already behind. It is now late at night and like Scarlett I decide that I will think about it tomorrow.
I awaken and begin to read my morning devotions, count my gifts, prepare to choose, to seek what to forsake. I read the email from Nic again and open the links, surveying the history of this celebration of my faith that I have never even pondered and wonder again what to give up? I read that this is a giving to Christ not a keeping from and I am stymied. I run headlong into the slippery white board of denial, unable to find any purchase for my mind. I feel so bare already that I can not see what I have to sacrifice and yet simultaneously anything that does come to mind from sugar and white flour to procrastination seem to be more of a self-serving resolution than a fast of repentance.
I go to Him, to the One to whom I am trying to draw close and ask but I hear static. When my heart is a pulpy mess like this last month it is hard to discern His voice over the fear which says take that which means most to you and He will take it away…forever. But that is stripping and not pruning and I have learned to not trust that message but know I can not hear Him over its roar. So I put my journal away and wait. I read friends' offerings; notice those who share their fast, but no answer feels at home. Finally, in an unguarded moment as I am chasing sleep I hear the whisper, Give up your anger at Me and all of the words and actions it fuels. Follow my Son.
Give up your anger at Me and all of the words and actions it fuels. Follow my Son. The words ring in my ears still pressed against a satin pillow case and it dawns on me what a difficult fast this will be. I can’t even discern what actions and words are fueled by anger at Him without Him. He is calling me to a deeper leaning to even attempt this. In my quiet time I listen to the Daily Audio Bible. I’ve been a DABer for several years but 2011 has been inconsistent. Surprisingly I have been ok with that. Just listening to the current day and not trying to catch up. Then this week I suddenly decide to try for more regularity. I begin on Monday but quickly the podcasts pile up and I am once again behind. So I start the morning with the first unheard and there it is…Brian’s voice declaring it is Ash Wednesday and sharing the story of the upper room and garden from Mark. The perfectionist, the completionist in me is silenced. God’s timing is not my own and His mercies are new each morning. And perhaps, just perhaps I am not so late to Lent after all.
The phone rings jarring my reverie, mom asking me to look something up at Amazon on my laptop which is running at the speed of mud and I snap irritably. He didn’t say to give up all anger, just at Him. But if I am angry at the slow laptop I am unable to replace in a season in which I am depending on Him to meet my financial needs, isn’t this the same as being angry at Him? Aren’t I just snapping at my mom because my inability to quickly help her confronts me with my own dependence? So am I, in effect, railing against God? It would have been much easier to give up cookies.
Again, I am beginning my day by reading how counting gifts can transform a heart when the whisper buzzes in my soul; Come to me with your grief. Do not stay away. I halt, arrested by the plea and my own defense. Haven’t I been doing just that? Haven’t I? But I don’t believe that the eternally efficient One wastes words, so if that is Him I must examine. If that is Him, that is the crux of my anguish. To have followed Him closely into what would seem to be a box canyon crushing me, I have chosen to believe that it was me that erred as He is perfect; so the “if” looms large. And anger is a part of grief. Why am I barred now from its expression? Could it be that the “if” and the anger are subtly working together not to find acceptance but to build a wall of protection from, of defense against God? His ways are not my ways and do I use this not to worship but to build a silent resentment? I don’t know.
I have DAB (still not caught up) playing in the background as I work and the scriptures tell of a generation barred from the promise due to grumbling and unbelief. Brian’s words fly, blaring loud as if the speakers were suddenly turned up, “They take their trust from the Lord and put their rage on Moses and Aaron and say terrible things.” Is this a clue for me in this fast? Is there a connection between taking my trust from God and putting anger on someone else, even onto myself? And does the more devious grumbling and browbeating myself count? How does what I say come into play? Am I letting the giants have the last word?