1 a (1) : free of wound or injury : unhurt (2) : recovered from a wound or injury : restored (3) : being healed
The theme for Lent this year at our church is a Journey to Wholeness. For the past few years, I've prayed about what I should give up or take on during Lent. Last year, I gave up caffeine and took up the practice of collaging every day. I haven't continued to collage daily, but I found after last year's Lenten experience that I am highly sensitive to caffeine. I had feared my headaches would worsen when I stopped having a cup of coffee each day. Instead, I found caffeine intake was a trigger for my headaches, not a cure for them. This observation was cemented for me during the Christmas season when I inadvertently slipped back into semi-regular caffeine consumption. I realized one morning that I'd had a low grade headache for three or four days. The culprit? A cup of black tea in the mornings. I quickly cut that out and found I felt much better.
Now, I want to be honest and say that I did not want to give up caffeine. I liked having a cup or two of coffee each morning. I liked the ritual of making the coffee, the lingering over a mug of it while I read. When I first had the idea of giving up caffeine, my response was, "No way. Not that. I'll do something else for Lent." Yet the idea would not go away. I felt like I was arm wrestling with God. I would pray about Lent and the answer would be "give up caffeine." I would walk away shaking my head. No, thank you. I would pray again. The answer would be the same. I didn't budge and neither did God. Finally, one Sunday the idea came to me that I could taper off of caffeine. It wasn't necessary that I give it up cold turkey. I could start the week before Lent, so that by Ash Wednesday I would have already started the Lenten journey without caffeine. I capitulated, but it felt like I was jumping off a cliff.
This year I was at a loss as to where I should start thinking about a Lenten practice. I prayed about it for several days and heard nothing. Lent crept closer. I kept praying. Finally, I heard something last week and I was surprised at the suggestion: run - or walk - for 40 days. Um, really? I do like getting up to run. I've found it is a peaceful way to start my day and it's definitely my favorite form of exercise. But every day for 40 days? I wasn't sure I could do this. And it sounded so much more like a New Year's resolution than a Lenten commitment - it sounded suspiciously like a pious route to weight loss more than a journey to spiritual wholeness. So I kept praying about it. I tentatively shared the idea with J, then a few friends. No one seemed to think it was crazy. And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like this was the direction I was being pointed. The tipping point was when I realized this had to be God's suggestion because I would never think of this on my own. And it felt eerily familiar to be faced with a Lenten practice that I wasn't sure I could do on my own.
As I've pondered committing to this, I've thought through the hard things: getting up at 6 am six days a week will be hard. I anticipate Friday mornings will be the worst. I'm spent by Friday. I wake up that morning wishing that school started at 8:30 instead of 8:00 and counting down the hours until J gets home and our weekend officially starts. It won't be easy to climb out of bed and get outside. I'll also be in Green Bay, Wisconsin the first weekend of Lent. Talk about baptism by fire. I guess if I can make myself walk or run in that weather, Nashville will feel balmy upon return.
I've also thought through what might be the reason(s) for this particular Lenten exercise. When I used to run, I did so with headphones, running in time to the music, singing along in my head. But when I started back up this fall, I left the headphones at home. I often pray - for myself or others - or I just think about things. It's quieter, more peaceful. I actually listen to myself for these thirty minutes better than I do at any other time during the day. Maybe I need to hone not only my ability to listen to myself, but my willingness to do so. Maybe I need this type of concentrated time with God for a season. Maybe He just wants to stretch me.
These are the things I think now. But I may find out the lessons I needed to learn were things I never anticipated. I may find this is a Lenten vow I'm incapable of keeping. I may fail spectacularly. I may succeed, yet never understand what this was all about.
But as I read the definition of wholeness, I know it is something I want. I want to be unhurt, restored, healed. And if it takes a few days in the rain or cold, if it means early mornings and a tired body, I will try it. Because I want to understand this body of mine. I want to learn to treat it with respect - to treat it as a gift, instead of something I merely lug through life with me. I want to know - and value - not only its strengths, but its limitations.
I'm hoping my Lenten Journey is, indeed, one of wholeness.