The season of Lent marks the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness before he launched his ministry. My brother recently pointed out, it’s actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Figuring out how 40 became 46 is like listening to Bob and Doug McKenzie explain the 12 days of Christmas. Maybe the church doesn’t count Sundays, national holidays or the Nordstrom half-yearly sale. But at any rate, we honor the time Jesus spent fasting and being tempted by El Diablo.
Talk to anyone who observes Lent, they’ll tell you which delicious, makes-life-worth-living thing they’ve given up (sweets, booze, Instagram) or laborious activity they’re adding (reading sermons from John Piper). I always try to give up DWR: Driving While Righteous. But inevitably, some boob in a BMW (or these days, Teslas) goes caroming across traffic lanes, and I find myself laying on the car horn. I’ve gotten better every year. My horn honking has turned into silent eye rolling, breathing exercises, or imagining said boob hooked up to a colostomy bag.
When it comes to adding something, I keep telling myself I’ll go back to having a “quiet time” as we used to call it. Actually, I’ve been promising this to my spiritual director for the past three years. But I have developed an aversion to sitting quietly and studying. It’s like I’ve been sentenced to a community college extension class. I end up sitting there fuming at God, “What? What do you want from me?!”
It’s been especially hard to sit quietly. When I was young, I spent my quiet time contemplating the abundant life ahead of me. Now, sitting quietly is a torturous contemplation of the opportunities I botched. I’ve been walking through more grief and loss, I’ve just been sad. I didn’t want to lay all of this on my dear hubby, so I started spiritual direction and joined a women’s group.
A few weeks ago, my women’s groun did an exercise. We each took three 3×5 cards. On one, we wrote down our hopes; on another, our fears. We shared them with each other. Then on the last card, we wrote down God’s response to what we’d written.
I got an interesting reply on the God card. “I know you’ve been sad, but I am going to bring you joy anyway.” And it wasn’t that “joyful anyway” phrase in which the anyway part implies a crapload of disappointment. Rather, it was like: “I know you’ve been sad and disillusioned. That won’t stop me from bringing you a gift. Joy is coming anyway.”
So for this Lent, I’m practicing the discipline of joy. I’ll tell you more later how difficult that is for me. But for now, I know I’m going sit still – even for a moment – not like it’s Saturday detention, but rather to clear out a corner of sadness to make room for joy. If I write nothing else during this Lent blogging, it will be to report what I find.
How about this? Meditation with a focus on the Triune God. I have found even though it’s nearly impossible for me to sit quietly that I have been gradually increasing this relaxing segment of my day. The increases are minute increments, but they are increments. “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10, NIV), sure does help.
Bob Rubin, artsandletters9