Lenten Devotion - day 20
This is my twentieth letter to you. I’m keeping count, mostly because I don’t want to sound terribly repetitive, and when I realized I am on 20 I thought I should glance at the ones I’ve written so as not to be.
How has Lent been for you? You are going through a hard and strange time of life. And I when last we chatted I was grateful to hear you are at some peace with things. Does having to go through this time of life, while going through Lent help at all?
Peace is elusive for me. Sometimes I have it, and I’m centered and aware, and then… gone. Like a wave smashing my fragile sandcastle of peace; anxiety, fear, guilt, or simply my own odd propensity for chaos will wipe away whatever peace I had.
However, I can function peacefully in emergencies just fine. I handle terrible news well, usually. I often carried the “really bad things are happening” pager when I was a hospital chaplain because of that. What destroys my peace always comes from within. I suspect that is true of all of us.
“Don’t worry,” said Jesus. Worry is the opposite of peace. And while there are some instances where it seems he lost his peace a little (for instance when he came down the mount of Transfiguration and was met with chaos and yelled out, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I put up with you?”), he actually didn’t worry. This is a fellow who told those closest to him that one of them was going to betray him, and one was going to deny him, and then sat and had a dinner with them saying, “You have no idea how much I’ve wanted to have this meal with you….”
He was honest, but he wasn’t worried. If I’ve learned anything from Jesus in my years of haphazardly following him, it is to be less worried about others. I haven’t yet learned to accept people as they are as well as I hope one day I will. Sometimes I still want them to be different. Sometimes I even want them to be at peace when they aren’t because I think their lack of peace is silly. Then, because I now have a desire to control others, I lose my peace because they aren’t doing what I want.
When those closest to Jesus didn’t do what he wanted, he was honest that they were missing the mark, but he was always gracious. Those with honest to God inner peace I only experience as gracious. Honest certainly, and often brutally so, but never in a way that made me feel unloved.
I am growing in that way. But one way I need to grow is to be gracious with myself. I lose my peace most readily when I’m afraid that the stupid things I’ve done will ruin my life. That terrible combination of guilt, shame, regret, anxiety, and fear is… well terrible. I lose my peace because I still do stupid things, and I don’t want to ruin my life because I’ve done stupid things. I worry I will ruin things. Worry is the opposite of peace.
This is reason enough why I shouldn’t do stupid things, but like Paul complaining in Romans that the good he would do he doesn’t, and the bad he doesn’t want to do is what he ends up doing; well I get that. Then I do this the Lenten thing again. And, I follow Jesus and he never seems to be worried about me. He knows the only thing I have going for me it a questionable past and a strange desire to want to be holy. He knows I stumble along just like everyone else who has ever followed him. But, he isn’t worried. Brutally honest, but not worried.
Why isn’t he worried about me? Maybe because I’ll sit down at dinner with him. Maybe because, when push comes to shove, no matter how much I fail, I will make my way to his table. I’ll go off and do something stupid, but I come back. Lent is about coming back to the table, and receiving the grace that can bring us peace one day too.