Lenten Joy

For Lent, I am giving up being frustrated with myself. We’re a couple of Sundays in, and I regret to inform you that I’m not yet walking around in a state of perpetual bliss.

My exterior behavior hasn’t changed much. I am still getting or not getting about the same amount done, still going to bed late sometimes, still missing the van, still haven’t written the great American novel. So what, then, is the point of this practice?

The more I do it, the more I think it helps me learn to “refuse to find my security and identity in anything but God,” as Jim Finley says. When I look at the source of my frustration, it’s usually not my actions but rather fear of what people will think about me.

On the one hand, it’s not an unreasonable fear. Most of us receive job evaluations that could have real effects on our lives, and our days are simply more enjoyable when people are kind to us. On the other hand, what exactly would happen if the nebulous “they” didn’t like me? To paraphrase Finley, when we think our lives are going down the drain, stop and ask which drain.

Not to mention that I’m making it all up—no one has ever approached me and said, I don’t like you because you don’t get enough done.

Basil Pennington, reflecting on the Rule of St. Benedict, says that the point of Lenten practice is to enter into the “fullness and joy of Easter” now, to look forward to Easter by being joyful. Richard Rohr in his daily meditations this week has included the prayer, “Astound me with your love.”

This wide open graciousness can feel risky. It’s much safer, at least to me, to stick within my narrow frustrations because there, I know who I am—I’m someone who’s going to mess up and disappoint myself. God may just have a better option than that.

3 thoughts on “Lenten Joy

  1. Yeah, options can feel tricky. With grace we keep choosing more open ones most of the time. And you have written a great American novel! I dunno if there is such a thing as The Great….

  2. “God just may have a better option than that.” Mmmmm I like the sound of that…..Just before I read your blog, I jumped onto a Catholic site which had a story by a priest who as a boy LOVED beating his breast and saying mea culpa. He was SAD when it got dropped. I wasn’t. But I liked his story and his perspective. He’s glad the 3 chest thumps are back – I felt a kind of joy for him! – and he says saying he has GREATLY sinned helps him distance himself from the Pharisee’s arrogance, the one who said something like, ‘ThanK You God for NOT making me like this lowly tax collector (who was beating his breast and asking God to have mercy on him, a sinner. We all know who Jesus preferred. This is all just to say, I got a kick out of his joy of surrender AND I joyful to think of you praying “Astound me with your love,” equally an act of surrender. I think you are a WONDER and am so grateful for your posts.

    • Thanks, Marni. I will try to remember that priest next time we are at that point and not feel so resentful of what to us post-Vatican II types is the “new” language, which I don’t particularly care for.

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