Does Lent feel like a season for frustration and irritation? A time of complaining about all our discomforts, voluntary or otherwise? Do your good intentions feel somehow unappreciated or worthless? Does your extra prayer or acts of service seem empty, aimless or uncertain? If so, you might be focusing on the wrong thing this Lent…
In a homily in Assisi where Pope Francis reflected on why he chose his papal name, the Holy Father pointed out that the peace of Christ is born from the love of the Cross. Every human being has a cross. For some it may be their physical health or that of loved ones, for some it may be more related to financial or emotional well being. For some it may be combinations of all of the above. The point is, we all have crosses and we all suffer. Our tendency is to want to run from that which causes us pain, to escape it, to avoid it.
What is Lent all about? Why do we have this season anyway? Is it about giving up candy, Netflix, Facebook and meat? Why all the focus on “sacrifice”? Why do we fast? How do we decide what to “give up”? Why do we pray? How do we pray? Why do we spend this time focusing on filling food banks and upping our tithe? Is it just a good time of year to make us feel guilty about everyone less fortunate? Just a good time of year to make us feel guilty about being fortunate? a time of year to make us feel guilty about what we give up or don’t give up? about whether we meet or don’t meet our resolutions?
If we don’t experience the extreme levels of guilt often characteristic of this Season we might find ourselves experiencing other “non-lenten” emotions such as apathy or resistance. “I’m a good person, why should I have to do anything different”? or “I hate lent because I just can’t deal without my daily Starbucks” It is true that Lent encourages us to make sacrifices, to die to ourselves like Christ, to give more, to work harder, to move outside our comfort zone…. but the purpose often gets lost in the details. Let’s get back to what really matters!
When God has a plan it trumps everything else.
I knew I would probably go into labor this week but that was the tiniest fraction of what would happen. After nearly 3 days of false labor Adam and I pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that “the kid was never coming out” and relaxed once again into our normal schedule.
Being a dancer “is one of the most difficult jobs. It is like the life of an ephemeral, this specific butterfly. We’re ugly at the beginning, but someone can see through our shell and help us grow… To finally die after few hours enjoying our gorgeous wings and technique to fly. But it is also a beautiful way to spend your life. It is worth the very hard work. When you go on stage, you’re giving your emotions to the world, you can express your inner world, become a goddess, die and then kill, transform yourself over and over again. …Don’t be afraid to throw your soul to your audience, if you want this sort of life.'” – Charlotte Landreau, Martha Graham Dance Company (NYC Dance Project – Artists without Borders) (see image below)
In the finale dance scene from the movie Strictly Ballroom the music is cut in order to prevent the couple from continuing their dance. Scott, the male main character, remembers Fran’s (the female lead) grandmother encouraging him, “Listen to the Rhythm. Don’t be scared!” He pauses a moment to gather himself and, despite the lack of audible music, the two finish the dance and all those present are in an uproar at the sheer beauty of the performance. This ability to listen in our hearts is the key to being able to follow in the dance.
When we focus on what we want and what we need we can have a tendency to forget what we already have. Last night I had a moment that reminded me again of the beauty of living in the present.
Lately I have been a nervous wreck. I’m finally full term pregnant with #4 and it feels like I’m a First Time Mom all over again. I’ve been worried and anxious and even started hallucinating about about being in labor, but still nothing. I have been freaking out about my older three kids being sick right as baby is due and how germy my house will be. My anxiousness and impatience has been zapping what little energy I have and causing me to be a bit of a grouchy wife and mama.
In order to learn how to dance with God, we have to recognize that the ultimate key factor is learning to Follow. When we learn to follow we learn to recognize that, as obvious as it might seem, we are not in the lead, that God is either our partner or our Instructor. Either way, He is the one in charge. He is the one who is displaying His strength by showing off our beauty (or, for you guys, the one showing you how to be strong). (See with God).
So, all these dance steps are essentially tips on teaching us how to follow, how to recognize cues, how to see them as beautiful and beneficial to us rather than controlling.
Fr. Al Lauer from Presentation Ministries gave a beautiful meditation on the feast of St. Martha on “busy-ness”. He explained how busyness can be a healthy and beautiful thing if we are called to it, but that the moment it takes us away from Christ and the peace he wants to offer us, then our busyness is no longer godly.
Is there a way to KNOW God loves you? Ever felt like saying “… it’s been such a crappy day/week/month/year/life that it sure doesn’t feel like it”? If we are struggling with the question of lovability, hearing about God’s love for you can almost feel nauseating in its commonality. We can’t even get away from the cheesy emoticon bumper-stickers that say “Smile, God loves you!” and most of the time it feels like people are “just saying that”. Is there a way to get past that?