“The process of conversion begins with genuine openness to change–to be open to the possibility that just as natural life evolves, so our spiritual life is evolving…. Each time you consent to an enhancement of faith, your world changes and all your relationship have to be adjusted to the new perspective and the new light that has been given you. Our relationship to ourselves, to Jesus Christ, to our neighbor, to the Church–to God–all change. It is the end of the world we have previously known and lived in” – Thomas Keating
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today is ash wednesday, the beginning of the season of lent. i admit this year, it just came up way too fast & it’s a little hard to believe we’re already here. right now, i am in the middle of a refuge 4th step group that is working on an inventory, a very painful & soul-searching process. the 4th step of the 12 steps is: “made a searching and fearless moral inventory” and step five is: “admitted to God, myself, and someone i trust the exact nature of my wrongs.” and following that, step 6 is: “were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” and step 7 is: “humbly asked God to remove my shortcomings.” i have done 4th steps before, but never has it coincided with this liturgical season in such an intentional and sort of freaky way.
it’s really good & it’s really hard. a big part of the process is dying to the old to step into something new.
i’m reminded of this familiar passage. “for everything there is a season…a time to be born and a time to die. a time to plant and a time to harvest. a time to kill and a time to heal. a time to tear down and a time to build up. a time to cry and a time to laugh. a time to grieve and a time to dance.” ecclesiastes 3:1-4
lent is a season of dying.
dying to the things that are robbing us of life.
dying to the things that continue to do us harm.
dying to the things that separate us from who God really is.
dying to the things that separate us from who we really are.
if you’re like me, i’m not too keen on dying to the unhealthy things that have kept me “living.” i kind of like my little-strategies-for-living because i am used to them. they are comfortable. they are predictable. they are my reflexes, the things i know how to do without even thinking.
i know how to judge others to make myself feel better.
i know how to give, give, give, and receive a little here and there.
i know how to feel insecure, inadequate, and not quite “enough.”
i know how to speak instead of listen.
i know how to keep things in my control.
i don’t have to try very hard to do these things. they don’t take a lot of effort, they tend to be my first response, my reflex. when i look back at the list i can find all kinds of ways to say “but i’m getting better at it, i am changing, it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be” and that may be true.
but lent is not a season to hide or jouk or jive our way through.
rather, it’s a time for honesty. radical honesty.
for light to shine on dark places. for the dead branches to be pruned off. for stripping away the things that hinder. for conversion.
it used to scare me to say things like this out loud. i also used to believe that because i struggled with these things, that’s all of who i was. that unless these struggles were “gone”, i wasn’t where i needed to be and God was always annoyed with me. i am thankful for the healing that has come through embracing paradox. and grace. and even though i’m not crazy about my weaknesses, i am indeed grateful for them. they remind me of my humanity & God’s divinity. for my need for God’s help & hope in the midst of my real life.
but accepting their reality does not mean i want to stay where i am and have life choked off from me in places it could more freely flow.
this lenten season, that’s what i hope for.
God’s revealing on what needs to die. yet again. yet again. and yet again.
so that i can keep learning to live.
what are you hoping for this lenten season?
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some of you have already seen some of these posts, but if you haven’t, here are some good resources & thoughts to ponder:
- 40 ideas for lent – rachel held evans, love that thomas merton prayer at the end
- christine sine always has awesome lent reflections & resources. for today, ash wednesday, here are a few beautiful prayers.
- she also has a lovely 40 day journey through lent called: a journey into wholeness: a lenten guide
- you may not be familiar with the national association for christian recovery, but dale & juanita ryan write some of the best daily devotionals out there. you can subscribe to their daily meditation here. they are from their book rooted in God’s love. beautiful words of hope.