Keeping a lenten vow is hard. This morning when my alarm went off, I did not, under any circumstances, want to get out of bed. It wasn't the weather - the sun was already peeking up and the day promised to be a beautiful one. It wasn't that I was sick or injured, just tired. So very tired. By the time my alarm went off at 5:55, J had showered and left for work. I stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom. There the internal debate began. Should I dress or crawl back into bed? Does God really expect me to be able to do this for 40 days? Do I expect me to be able to do this?
I did actually crawl back into bed. But after mere moments, I talked myself (guilted myself? shamed myself?) into getting out of bed and into workout clothes. I hit the sidewalk still yawning and rubbing my eyes. And I let myself off the hook and walked with not a single block of running. (It seemed a small concession to make to the weariness that was enveloping my body and soul.)
Did I enjoy my walk once I woke up and persevered? Yes. Did I hear God's voice as I trudged along? Yes. Was I obedient and faithful? Yes. Does part of me still wish I had been able to stay in bed? Absolutely. It was hard to do that one simple thing this morning - and there is a lot of Lent left.
I wonder if this is why more Christians don't do Lent. Not because they believe it lacks a biblical foundation (as one friend told me), but because it is hard. It's hard to hear God whisper something He wants you to do - something straightforward and simple - and then struggle to do it over and over for 40 days. It's hard to face the constant tension of passivity and activity in your faith walk. What is my job? What is God's? That's not always clear.
I think some denominations would argue that Lent is not a part of their particular tradition because their faith is based on relationship with God, not abstention or fasting for a marked period of time. I would say to them that my Lent so far has very much been about relationship. I've been listening and talking and praying as I walk and run. I've been thinking about my friendships and what they tell me about the kind of friend I am. I've been thinking about my desire to remain hidden and what that tells me about my heart. I've been realizing I am much more gracious with others than I am with myself - and that I feel powerless to change that on my own.
Starting my day with a walk or a run has not been about losing weight or physical fitness. It's been about being willing to engage in an ongoing conversation with God about where I am in my life and the hopes, dreams and gifts He has for me.
Back in November, I made an Advent journal. I used that journal for the entirety of Advent - for everything from planning my birthday party to recording thoughts after Lectio Divina. I collaged in it, scribbled down quotes I liked and lugged it all over town with me. When Epiphany rolled around, I wanted another journal to name and mark that season. So I created another journal (and found I prefer a traditional composition book as a starting point since my epiphany journal fell apart!) and believe it's lovely to mark the year this way. Here's a view of my journal for Lent:
On the inside cover I've copied down a Mary Oliver poem. I've been reading Oliver's poetry for a few months now and thoroughly enjoy it. Her love of nature and willingness to search for God and His heart in creation is moving, inspiring and challenging. I started with the volumes Blue Iris and Thirst. (Thirst is exceptionally good - start here if you're unfamiliar with Oliver.) After finishing those, I checked to see what else the library had available. I smiled when I saw the volume called Why I Wake Early. Only days before, I'd been surprised to hear God instruct me to walk or run every morning for Lent. So it seemed like a gentle nudging - and a kind gift - to read Oliver's words:
Why I Wake Early
Hello, sun in my face.Hello, you who make the morningand spread it over the fieldsand into the faces of the tulipsand the nodding morning glories,and into the windows of, even, themiserable and the crotchety -best preacher that ever was,dear star, that just happensto be where you are in the universeto keep us from ever-darkness,to ease us with warm touching,to hold us in the great hands of light -good morning, good morning, good morning.Watch, now, how I start the dayin happiness, in kindness.
Perhaps words like these should make it easy to get out of bed each morning. They do not. It is still hard. Yet I am doing it. So far.