Tomorrow is the first day of Lent, the season of preparing ourselves for the good news of Christ’s resurrection, with all that it means for us. Lent is a prime time to clear away – with God’s help – the obstacles that keep us from growing in our relationships with the divine and with humankind. Often that spring cleaning involves taking on a particular discipline, whether giving up a distraction or adding a spiritual practice. Both are great means of creating more space in our lives for love. I think I’m going to tweak those approaches a bit and focus on the barriers themselves, using different means to try to shrink them.
Shame. As Brene Brown so helpfully names, shame is a feeling of unworthiness. It is different from guilt, which is regret about an action or an omission. God has fearfully and wonderfully made me. God has fearfully and wonderfully made everyone else too, including people I do not know, like, agree with, or understand. I will seek to be more attentive to when I feel shame and when I use shame as a tactic against others.
Inaction. I have always liked to think of myself as someone who does her part to help others. In the past month – as circumstances for a number of populations have become more dire – I’ve realized I have not been doing nearly enough. I will ask God to open me to opportunities to be generous, vulnerable, and bold…and to kick me in the pants to take those opportunities.
Defensiveness. My mind screams “I’m a good person!” when someone challenges me on what I believe and how I live out those tenets. The truth is, I’m a privileged person, one who has unwittingly perpetuated a number of isms. I will engage in intentional learning about the shortcomings I’m aware of – and, no doubt, unearth more in the process. Not to feel shame, mind you, but in knowing better, to do better.
Withdrawal. It is really, really hard right now to resist pulling my head and my limbs into my shell. In some of the spaces I inhabit, very human opinions are given the weight of gospel, and the outflowing strategies are heralded as salvific. It does not feel safe to share from my heart, or even from my greater comfort center – my mind. I will effort to stay present, because conversation is one of our greatest hopes for unity.
Despair. It feels like every day another heavy, wet blanket is layered onto my tired body. Things are changing so quickly in our country and world, and (to my mind) not in a way that reflects God’s yearning for creation. I will pray continually for hope, using the scriptural phrase, “I believe, help my unbelief!”
What discipline(s) will you take up for Lent?