Failing Lent

Lent hasn’t gone so well.

With key words like prepare, quiet, patience, self-examine, somberness, discipline, empty, fasting, contemplation, and reflection, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church and the one I attend now only marginally acknowledges the calendar, so admittedly, I’m traveling alone at night without a GPS here. 

I wrote a few weeks ago about unintentionally falling into this liturgical theme on my blog because of a new planner I was trying to use this year.  The subject of that blog was how editing would become my spiritual practice for Lent. Editing to experience space was my thinking. Rather than just give something up, I would be intentional about adding, too. Editing, by definition of course, involves removing, but also includes re-arranging, choosing fewer, and increasing power.

I had in mind doing one thing at a time, for example, like walking, or waiting at a stop light –without checking my phone. Cooking in silence – without HGTV in the background.   Not hard, you say?  For those of you forgoing chocolate or cupcakes…?  I couldn’t believe how many times I found myself breaking my own self-imposed rules! Honestly, I was failing miserably.  I couldn’t stand it.  My husband told once, when I asked him why he loved me, “You’re efficient.”  It wasn’t exactly romance, but it was true. I love making the most of time and after running a home and family for 28 years, I’ve mastered multi-tasking.

Halfway into the season, twenty days before Easter, I found myself asking, “How has the practice gone?”   The answer came back: What I cannot do for myself has to be done for me.  That’s humiliating. It’s also Love.

The pace at which I am usually living, the multitasking I am so good at is soul-killing and I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to move slowly, pay attention, do one thing at a time and enjoy the beauty of it. 

Couple my multitasking skills with being a people person who enjoys helping, then add a need for their approval -  (Yes, I’m an RAA – recovering approval addict!)  – And you’ve got a person who can’t make space in her own life, who constantly forgets self-care, and who thought editing her life would be a good Lenten practice.

So what happened?  I got sick. Serious vertigo put me flat on my back for a few days and kept me from driving for several more.  That will throw a kink in a To-Do List and the routine of a week.  I was forced to cancel events on the calendar, to rescind an invitation to overnight houseguests, to call friends to help me walk to the bathroom, bend over and put my shoes on, go to the grocery store, and be driven to and from work once I could return.  It slows you down to be at the mercy of another person’s schedule.  It’s also keeps the ego in check.

I’m not a patient patient.  I’ve been in this place before. It’s a place of encounter for me.  I want to be clear-eyed and learn what I can. I also want to move on through it quickly; and that isn’t always the way it unfolds. Lent demands some silence and solitude, no matter how ashen and gray it feels.  Lent calls us to some ‘doing without’ –even though it is lonely and uncomfortable. If we follow Christ all the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, Lent calls us to wrestle with what isin our lives vs. ‘any other way’.  

And it’s OK to pray, “Let this cup pass from me” and then plead for the faith to finish the sentence,  “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done” and mean it.

When I wrote my devotional book a few years ago, one of my dearest friends, as I’d finish each section, would read my work to me aloud.  Hearing how she read the words on the page led to further edits as I realized what I meant and what my reader understood were sometimes disparate ideas.  This process took place before my final editor, working for the publisher, took her pen to my work.  In other words, despite my own efforts to write, revise, and edit my own writing, I couldn’t be my own editor.

I tell my students this all the time, “You’ll see what isn’t there.  You’ll see what you think you said, whether or not it is what you actually wrote.”  Sometimes we are just too familiar with our own work to do the editing, or we just love our own words too much to chop the superfluous ones.  

It was a good idea, thinking I would take up editing for Lent. It was a good thing to fail at doing. It’s best done by Another Hand.