Monday, April 02, 2007

Lenten Thoughts

Well, it's Holy Week, and the home stretch of Lent. Time to reflect a little....

This has been a quiet Lent for me. Early on, I chose this verse to guide my thoughts and practice:

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength....
Isaiah 30:15

This Lent was unusual because six days of it was spent with Papa Rooster on vacation in Florida--without kids. That is the longest I've been away from my kids since I've been a parent. The thing I most enjoyed about that time surprised me, because I had forgotten what it was like to NOT TALK. I only spoke if I had something pleasant to say; otherwise, we wandered along, hand-in-hand, in companionable, blessed silence. No giving directions, no settling disputes, no answering random questions, no repeating "no" in ten different ways. It was a gift.

It wasn't easy to come home! But the contrast reinforced my commitment, this Lent, to quietness. I've been trying, throughout Lent, to be quieter in my home--especially, when tensions are rising, to halt the flow of words from my own lips. In one of my favorite marriage books, The Surrendered Wife, the author refers to "the healing power of duct tape [across the lips]," and that phrase keeps popping into my head regarding my mothering as well! Though I doubt the impact has been very noticeable to my family, the Holy Spirit and I know the words I've bitten back, the tirades I've cut short. I'm a long way from achieving a "meek and quiet spirit," but it has been a good discipline that I plan to continue beyond Lent.

I've also been quieter online, not posting quite so often and not visiting other blogs as much. (Apologies to some of you--but now you understand!)

I've rested also, more than I wanted to, because of illness. (Doing much better now, as long as I keep taking my probiotics.) It's been hard not having my normal energy, but what better time to slow down than during Lent? I'm grateful that most of my energy seems to be back now, in time to host Easter dinner and houseguests.

Repentance...I alluded to that above; I've been trying to turn from angry words. I've also been convicted of how often I focus on my agenda, the schedule, the tasks that need to be done and how little I focus on building the relationships I have with each child. I purposed to take each of my older children out on a breakfast or lunch date during Lent, but because of my touchy GI system, that hasn't happened. I'm still planning to do this soon.

I also intended to spend extra time reading to and playing with the 2- and 4-year-olds, and I suppose lack of energy is my excuse...but I still want to do this. I can tell that Chicklet 4, especially, needs her "love tank" replenished often, and these are such important, formative years for the two of them. I am continuing to seek the Lord on how to see relationships, not management, as my primary vocation in my home; it's something I've always struggled with.

I'm doing a lot of trusting this Lent, too. We still don't know for sure if we're moving, if we're going to lead a church plant, if we're going to start a prayer community, if we're to consider one other option that has arisen, or none of the above! All the discussion and decision-making regarding yes or no to the church plant has to go on between Papa Rooster and others. I can go or stay, either one, happily. The hard thing for me has been not knowing...but that's where the trust has come in. Elizabeth Elliott once said, "If you don't have it now, you don't need it now," and I'm sure I don't need to know yet, even though I'd like to.

So it's been a good, low-key Lent for me. I've been mildly successful in a few of my disciplines, and pretty well failed in others. However, I was struck by something our pastor admitted yesterday during his sermon, though it was just an aside. He said that he recently pulled out the list he had made, on Ash Wednesday, of the sins he was renouncing. "And I'm worse now than I was five weeks ago!" he exclaimed.

His admission hit me that Lent isn't about self-improvement. It's not even mainly about spiritual growth, discipline, and training in godliness, though of course Lent is about those things too. But Lent is uniquely a season to remind us how helpless we are, in our frail humanity apart from God. From Ash Wednesday's, "From dust you came, and to dust you shall return," to Good Friday's realization that "I crucified thee," as the hymn goes, we admit that "Apart from God, we are nothing," that "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Of course, we can have Christ's victory over our sinful natures--but it is a moment-by-moment battle, is it not? We can all participate in the spiritual triumph of Christ (as we actively celebrate during the upcoming season of Easter!), but that victory has been won with a cost, as we are reminded by today's collect:

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and peace....

Lent is a time to "walk in the way of the cross," to suffer the pain of deep awareness of our own sinful tendencies. Having dwelt for this season in the shadows of repentance, how brightly looms the light of Easter Day!


5KidMom said...

Thank you for this post. I needed it today. This, is an especially pertinent observation for me right now...

"I'm sure I don't need to know yet, even though I'd like to."

Ann V.@HolyExperience said...

I deeply, deeply appreciate you.
Thank you.