My husband was raised Catholic. Years ago, shortly after my husband and I started attending our Pentecostal-ish church, someone asked him what he was giving up for Lent. Without missing a beat, he said, “The Catholic church!”
He said that — and I relate the story now — not to be mean. Truly, we don’t have a thing against the Catholic church. We — Tim especially — just have a sarcastic sense of humor.
But ever since then, it’s been hard for me to take Lent seriously. I see an enormous value in burrowing in with Christ. I’ve seen quite a few articles lately debating whether or not this idea is Biblical, and to be honest, I don’t care if it is or not. It’s a practice that is designed to draw our minds to God. To slow us down and help us focus. It’s a beautiful thing, when we can do that. I’ve always lacked self-discipline, and it can only benefit me spiritually when I become aware and try to remedy that.
Still, even with these thoughts swirling through my mind, I only had a vague sense that Lent was approaching. OK, let’s be honest. If it weren’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t have thought about it. It came on my radar when it was already here. Ash Wednesday.
I used to love going to the Ash Wednesday service. I joined the Catholic church while Tim and I were engaged, and I loved the high-beamed cathedrals of the churches we attended, and the light filtering through the stained glass and ritual and shared words rising up, up. Incense burning, music swelling, humble kneeling. Something about escaping from work mid-day, having ashes smeared on my forehead, withdrawing to the holy — well, it was beautiful to me.
And now here it is, the day after I did not do that.
At the start of the year, I wrote about how, in spite of my reluctance, I felt as though God gave me a word for the year. I’m trying to focus on it, remember it. TURN. To Him, turn away from turning away from Him. I’m still lacking in discipline and focus, but I’m trying. Slowly, slowly easing back into the kind of faith I once practiced. And now, apparently, Lent is turning into something new for me.
See, here’s the thing. I got my editorial comments from my publisher a couple days ago. It’s all good. But they want to make my manuscript better, and their suggestions for doing so — while smart and well-thought-out and reasonable — will be difficult for me to accomplish. I’m grateful for their attention and thoughtfulness. I see that they are really invested in this, too. Like I said, it’s all good.
I don’t normally shy away from challenges, but I spent a couple days feeling overwhelmed. It took someone else to remind me that God’s got this. How wrong is it that, after writing a book on prayer and on looking for God in everything and trusting Him because He’s come through time and time again, it doesn’t occur to me to TURN to Him? Or to believe that, if He’s in this thing with me, He will help me? Instead, I panic and wonder if I can do it. I, I, I.
Well, duh. The answer to that is no.
However, as I sat in a parking lot yesterday before an appointment, checking in on Facebook for a sec, I instantly understood something. I hadn’t been aware it was Ash Wednesday, but I am certain that this is my Lent. My sacrifice, my dedication, my blessing, my growth. The only way I can accomplish this, the only way to let God shine through me, through those pages, is for me to close in. To give it to Him. To climb underneath His mighty wing, feeling His warmth and security and comfort. Receive His grace. Accept His wisdom. Yield my self.
Turn to Him.
Sweet Lord, I love the way You show Yourself to me. I love the way You speak. I love that your words are not so much words as they are a deep surety, a knowingness. I love this quiet, gentle reminder that I am not alone in this project. I love knowing that, because of that, when I settle in to work, I will find You there.
I love. I am grateful. I am ready.