Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lent: So Glad It Only Comes Once a Year

For several years running I gave up complaining for Lent. It took me that long to do it right. I gave up complaining out loud two years in a row. After that I worked on quieting the inner complaints. Last year I gave up complaining to God Himself. The habit of grousing has its back broken enough after all that hard work that I am able to nip it in the bud with just a little effort whenever I notice myself falling into it again. I developed a new improved habit to replace it. Moving on. I want more of that!


For various reasons, I decided to give up the fa├žade of toughness that is my habitual response to the pains and arrows of the world. Toughness is not a sin, no. Nor is a shell around one's softer spots a bad idea. The only problem is when the habit of relying on a tough outer coating interferes with other strategies that are just as necessary to a happy and healthy life. I was finding I had more faith in my ability to protect myself from Life than in God's desire to give me what is good for me. When that habit of relying on myself superseded a reliance on God, it became disordered. 

I am disordered when I habitually use my wit to distract with laughter those who stumble uncomfortably close to the truths of me. I am disordered when I selfishly wield my Socratic questioning skills to open up the other person and use their natural desire to talk about themselves as a shield to hide myself behind. My barbed snark is the final weapon and it proves fatal to any budding friendship not healthy enough to live until the apology can take the sting out of the wound and stop the hemorrhage. Wit, getting others to talk, and sarcasm are not inherent evils. They are talents that can be invested badly, invested well, or buried in the ground. 

I've not buried them. For the most part I use them well. Yet, they are also part of the armor I use to keep this Hermit Crab crabby. As weapons, they are offensive, and in matters of the heart friendly fire wounds deepest. My heart has long stopped needing such a vigorous guard since I am better able to discriminate friend from foe. This Lent my guard is called to stand down and accept new orders. The Medic has been called.

I won't go into the details of how hard a Lent this has been. Let me say vaguely that I am battle weary from fighting off friend and foe and now I must engage against myself. Let me protest that my old wounds have scars that open up when pulled in a new direction. The barest hint of fresh air on that sort of thing stings and smarts and makes me wish I'd left well enough alone. Finally, let me say it's been a heartache, of course. Heart surgery hurts. The stone must be crushed and crumbled and removed before the heart of flesh can beat again. I am mixing my metaphors and yet I am still ending this paragraph. See? A certain amount of hardness can be used for good.

Here we are three days into Lent and I am exhausted and beyond my strength. I have Confessed and been shriven and admonished with the phrase, "You do not trust in God enough." I was assigned a penance to last all through Lent, too. God isn't kidding around! And just when I was thinking, "Well, I asked for this. Time to buckle down to it." I got hit with a nasty cold and an ear infection. I've had more than enough already, thank you. 

Time to rely solely on the only thing that is ever reliable: the only Person who is ever reliable.

Jesus, I trust in You. 37 days and counting. 

Good thing I haven't given up complaining this year.

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