3 a : something learned by study or experience
What have I learned this Lent? I’ve learned that Lent is a time of God making things new, but I’ve also seen, felt and experienced the grief of Lent. It’s a time of waiting, a time of preparation, a between time spent looking both back at where you’ve been and forward to Easter morning and the unfurling of God’s promises kept all over again.
Lent has been an unfurling for me, although not in the way I imagined. I’ve not felt like a tulip whose petals are gently opening to reveal great beauty. Nor have I been whipped about like a flag atop a pole, a sail aboard a boat. But my grief coupled with learning to truly care for myself has begun an unbinding, an unraveling, a snipping of threads, a ripping of seams. An unfurling.
I’ve most often seen Lent as a time of giving up. A time of self-sacrifice, self-denial, perhaps even self-flagellation. But God has used this Lent to talk to me about receiving. Have I managed the self-denial portion? Mostly. Just two cokes since Ash Wednesday and no caffeinated coffee. Have I cared for myself? More consistently than in the past, yes. But with perhaps less success than I’ve given up caffeine. I say I’ve had less success with self-care because I’ve watched (or not watched, but woken up to find) my attitude towards self-care morph from one of pleasant anticipation to self-care as one more task to do in a busy day. I’ve seen how abruptly an altered schedule makes me set aside taking care of myself. I’ve seen the ugliness of control sneak its way into my thinking. I’ve willingly let go of things that bring me great joy. Because I feel I don’t deserve them? Because it’s easier that way? Because I think I’ve learned my Lenten lessons? Perhaps all three.
So I'm fighting to remember, to remind myself that Lent is supposed to be the start of ordinary time. It's not a forty day sprint, but a season designed to set the stage for my life after these forty days. The purpose of Lent is last until Easter morning. My Lent would mean little if I have a double espresso for breakfast Easter morning and chug Coke for every meal following. Easter is not the finish line, but the starting point. Self-care isn't a lesson I can learn in one short season. It's an ongoing conversation between my flesh and my spirit. It's a constant choice between the things of this world that do not satisfy and the short sips of water that truly quench a thirsty soul.
As I contemplated writing this post, I had visions of a series of collages I'd like to complete for friends, along with a blog post or two that have been percolating. I long to create. It satisfies me and feeds me. It is an integral part of unfurling. And if I want to be unfurled, if I want to be not just who I am right now, but who I can be, I think creativity is the double line along the center of the road. No passing allowed. Linger here. Take time for yourself. Make your ordinary life less ordinary.
I want to be made new. I want to unfurl and stretch like a cat in the sun. To be comfortable, content, thankful in my own skin. Not just during Lent, but always.