From the Rector…
Every year at Lent, we are encouraged to take on or give something up as a spiritual practice. I have lived into this most of my life—planning for Lent and what my spiritual practice might be months in advance. It’s a little like a New Year’s resolution for me—something I have predetermined because I want to grow into being a better Christian. I know this sounds a little counter to my sermon on Sunday—but it really isn’t. I know I am a beloved child of God and there is nothing I have to do or not do to have God love me. It is because of my belovedness that I want to be the best child of God I can be—that I am living into his purposes and helping to build up his kingdom. This year is no different.
For months now I have been pondering what is distracting me and keeping me from growing as a child of God. I finally settled on the clutter in my life—too much stuff in my house, eating junk, and a crowded calendar. My lenten plan was to clean up my lifestyle. I collected boxes to put stuff in to take to Goodwill, I investigated a couple of eating plans for cleaner, healthier eating, and I started saying no to various committees and responsibilities I have taken on in the past. Things were falling into place last week as we approached Ash Wednesday—another holy Lent in which to excel.
Unfortunately for me, I forgot that God has a wicked sense of humor. My carefully laid plans were at the ready when I woke up last Wednesday with laryngitis. I couldn’t speak at any of the Ash Wednesday services other than to whisper the words of communion. I had given up my voice and would not get it back for five days. As part of the cure, I had to give up my regular allergy medicine which meant that the last few days I have felt as if I were underwater with my ears full of fluid so that I could barely hear. I gave up my voice and my hearing for the first week of Lent.
Just when things might have started looking up, I discovered I was to also give up my plumbing. Yep. The plumbing went out on Friday even as our house was full of out-of-town company. They quickly left-haha! The plumbers came to snake the plumbing and discovered sewage under the house. They said they couldn’t fix it until Monday. On Monday they said they couldn’t fix it until Tuesday morning. This morning they said it would be sometime this afternoon. We’ve given up plumbing for five days. I am hopeful that we will have it back by the time you are reading this post.
We aren’t a full week into Lent yet, and the count is five days of giving up my voice, three days of giving up my hearing, and five days of giving up plumbing. I didn’t plan for any of these and the things I had planned to do have yet to happen.
Lent like life, can come at you sideways. It’s never about what we think it is about. Instead it is always about something that is so much more. The trouble is that we are usually so distracted by life we can’t seem to get focused on what we need to be focused on. Not having a voice on Ash Wednesday forced me to really listen to the words of the liturgy in ways I had never done before, to practice a deep self-examination. Self-denial came to mean something completely different than it normally does—it was a denial of frustration that I have the power to control anything much less my own body. Not being able to hear myself on Sunday, even as I preached, taught me a whole new level of godly reliance. And when you don’t have plumbing, you choose to do a little more fasting than you might have otherwise—for obvious reasons!
All three of the things I have had to give up so far in Lent were not by choice, but they have completely changed my perspective on Lent this year. I am still going to deal with the clutter in my life, but I realize now that clutter might distract, but the challenges of life do not have to be distractions. The challenges and obstacles we must overcome in life are the path upon which we journey toward God. It is the way in which we face those obstacles that is most telling. Sadly, for me, I have been a little less than gracious about my losses so far this Lent. As I realize this, I am also reminded of Dory from Finding Nemo—her mantra, “just keep swimming,” is always said in a singsong voice with an amused sort of smile on her face. No matter what life throws at her, she knows the only path you can take is forward. So, this year for Lent, that will be my mantra too, “just keep swimming.” And hopefully, I will make it to the other side with a little less clutter in my home and in my heart.
Light and Life,