Photo: Temperatures reached the 70s today in MetroWest and I got enough sun to earn a little glow! As it’s February break, my boys were able to enjoy a leisurely day, complete with muddy construction in the rivets of our driveway. Tomorrow’s task? Get someone out here to give us an estimate on how much it would cost to gravel and/or pave the driveway. Home ownership is expensive… Lordy.
Thank you for indulging me in an unexpected Monday off. I traveled to Maryland to witness my step-sister marry the love of her life, which gave me time to spend time with my sister and other family. Monday night was especially important as I desperately needed to spend time with a wise friend. It was time very well spent and I thank you for your patience with me.
I spent a good time of my travels writing. My sister and I are working on a children’s story together and we finalized the manuscript over our trip. I think it’s really going to be a beautiful book when the illustrations are done. I hope I can give ya’ll a preview sometime in the near future. I also spent time working on my own projects–not Silverwood, the novel I’ve been trying to write, but a short story in the same universe called Celia’s Compline. I’m hoping to submit the piece as part of a fellowship application. I’ve gotta take it down from 40 pages to 25, have it polished and perfect (along with some other materials) by the 1st! Oh my God!
There’s been a lot of praying throughout the process, obviously!
That’s mighty appropriate, actually, as Lent started last week. This is the time for unceasing prayer. It is supposed to be a time for silence, repentance and reflection. I’m doing my best. The Society of St. John the Evangelist, where I took my silent retreat last year, sent me a beautiful journal full of readings and spaces to reflect for Lent. I took it with me for meditation while I traveled.
Along with my Forward Day-by-Day, which is moving through the gospel of Luke this season, I’ve been given a lot to think about over these next few weeks.
I take Lent very seriously. Where earlier in my life it felt like a trendy thing to do, then morphed into an annoying period of “giving up” something for tradition’s sake, it now feels like a period to fill the soul with questions and new ideas. Note I said new ideas and not answers. When I was younger, the answers were all I wanted. First of all, I thought I knew the answers for sure. It was all a “story to control the masses” or “stories full of reasonable rules for the time to prevent chaos and disease.” When I was younger, I knew who was doing this Christian thing wrong and who probably was doing it right. I knew I was too smart for it. Too sophisticated for it. Some of those feelings haven’t fully gone away.
But that’s where the “new ideas” come in. Because, truth be told, I didn’t know a damn thing then and I’m only just scratching the surface of comprehension now. I’m learning a lot about structure and governance, on how congregations pull together and come apart, how priests are trained and leaders are chosen. That’s just the church stuff, not even the religion stuff, which is a different set of revelations. It was as if all of my critiques somehow made it to God’s ear and He made the choice to reveal a rebuttal for every one of them. The result has been an incredible education. I’m not and never was too good for church, too good for God.
But the gift has specifically come from being part of an Episcopalian congregation. The Episcopalians continually delight and surprise me because of their wonderful tolerance for the “mystery of faith.” They acknowledge that there is an intellectual leap that must be taken to take in the Word, to worship God and the risen lord, Jesus. As a rational person, an educated person even, you can get to the edge and curl your toes all the way over it and then fail to take the leap. I mean, could the miracles really have happened? Was he really resurrected? Did angels really come down from Heaven for this reason and that? It’s easy to go through the motions of Sunday (“We get up on Sunday and we go to church. It’s what we do.”) without fully, truly surrendering to the beautiful gray, the possibility of it all being real and true and wonderful. Episcopalians acknowledge all the doubts, but invite anyway.
I didn’t know that I could believe. Not fully and truly. Not really, with full sincerity. I knew that I could show up at church to make other people happy. I knew I could get dressed up and play a role. I knew I could learn the prayers and do the “right” things during a service. I didn’t know I could indulge in it. Lent, burdensome before, has turned into an indulgent period. I get to read Thomas Merton. I get to set aside real time to pray and meditate. I get to light a candle and contemplate my faith. It’s 40 days of thought and reflection. It isn’t depravity at all, but the good hard work of wonder and wander. If done well, I should emerge on the other side with more questions than answers. The prayers will have more meaning, the words will make more sense and reach a little deeper down, and I’ll have the energy to continue on in this crazy life I just so happen to live.
You don’t really have to be a Christian to take part in the period of Lent. Not really. You can simply set aside a period of time during the year where you will indulge in the mystery of this life and where you belong in our great and chaotic world. Read words that attempt to reach to your heart of hearts. Spend time in a silent room, breathing. Try to live your life outside of your head and instead inside your heart… a place where maybe you haven’t been for a while (Lord knows I find my head to be far more manageable). Seek the questions. Indulge in them. Don’t worry about the answers that may elude you. Simply know that they are there. Emerge from your designated time finding a deeper love for yourself, the questions that you seek answers for, and the beautiful mystery that is your very existence. You may well surprise yourself more than once.
If you are practicing Lent this year, I’d love to know how. Perhaps you’ll inspire me to take up something new this year!
Thanks again for your patience with me. I’ll see you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.