Lenten Devotion - day 19
I’m going to tell you a secret. Sometimes Lent feels very long to me.
I’ve done some kind of Lenten practice since I entered the ministry. Beforehand I never really took it seriously. Becoming a clergy person, a profession religious person changed me. I wanted to know the reality of this life I felt I had no choice but to enter.
So, I took up trying to do something for Lent. One year early on in my Lenten experiences I gave up sound in the car. No music, no conversations, just driving and silence… well there was plenty of sound, but nothing that begged for my attention.
In that lack of finding something to focus on, I got to observe my thoughts for the first time. It’s funny to say that, don’t we always observe our thoughts? But we don’t really. We rush along without paying attention, or getting absorbed in some manufactured attention. In that car I began to pay attention to my thoughts; especially on the long drives, and one was seven hours!
One year I decided to be a vegan for Lent. I was still in Georgia that year and let me tell you what, being a vegan in southwest Georgia wasn’t easy. I had to prepare most of my own food. I had to know what was in everything I ate. I could tell it was getting crazy when I typed in Google, “Are nutt…” and it auto filled for me, “Are nutter butters vegan?” They are by the way.
That year I learned more about food than I had ever learned before. I learned a lot about where our food comes from, how it is treated, how it is grown, and how to cook things I’ve never heard of. None of that has left me. Neither has observing my thoughts, and sometimes driving long distances alone with no sound other than the road.
One year I gave up alcohol. This was before I admitted I had a serious problem. Maybe unconsciously I was getting there by choosing alcohol. That was the only year I didn’t finish my Lenten practice. Often forty-six days of Lent seems long. I couldn’t wait to eat a cheese burger the first year I went vegan (I’ve done it twice, and learned even more the second time, and I didn’t eat much meat for months after the second time), but I couldn’t last two weeks without booze.
That year I learned a lot too. Over a year later I knew if I didn’t find a way to give alcohol up altogether, I’d lose most of what I loved most in life. But my Lenten practices prepared me for that too.
Learning to observe my thoughts, learning where my food comes, sending letters to people I missed (another practice I had one year), and the other pieces I’ve learned along the way, I also learned I needed God.
I know I’m a minister, but I am always afraid if I sound that sappily religious, I come across as inauthentic. So let me try to explain how my learning felt. I discovered in my Lenten practices my thorough and complete reliance on all the universe. I discovered how my thoughts are often noise that keeps me from being present and experiencing genuine peace. I discovered that friendships long past, still give me love. I discovered that all things are connected; and life is often terrible and sometimes beyond wonderful, but it is always a miracle.
This miracle of life all comes from Love, I can feel it with all I am when I’m paying attention. So, when I couldn’t love myself and wondered if alcohol wouldn’t simply be the reason I couldn’t finish a Lenten journey, but be the reason I couldn’t finish life either; I knew that only Love would save me.
But what kind of love goes to hell to save someone like me?
I walked to the cross for so many years. In different ways it has saved me so many times. I knew that kind of Love would save me again.
So, we walk, dear friend, once again, to remember and to be saved. I don’t know about you, but I need to be saved over and over, and only Love can save us. Only Love can make us love. Lent isn’t as short as I’d like it to be, but it is as long as I need it to be. It’s a gift from God.