Monday, April 30

When Lent Ends and We Wander

It's three weeks after Easter and something is amiss.

I have a restless spirit inside.  When we start to feel restless we give each other lots of advice like:  
  • Get outside -- We have new sod in the backyard (a three year dream), I've cleared and planted a little garden, and the basketball hoop, the sandbox and the bikes have been broken in for the season. 
  • Clear the calendar and refocus -- We've had two weekends with no obligations other than general house upkeep, taking bike rides and playing baseball together.  
  • Make sure to get date nights -- My husband and I have had two dates in three weeks.  Connection is happening here.
  • Shake up the school day -- The boys and I have had several field trips and hikes together.  And in school we've begun our last unit wherein ds asked to linger on Vikings... so we did.
  • Take time for yourself -- I've had two evenings with friends and actually spent two hours shopping this weekend which is unheard of in my world.
Then why the restlessness?  I looked at what's missing from my list and I've concluded that it's the second loss of Lent.   The first loss was felt during Lent; the sacrifice, the giving up.  The second is what I'm feeling afterward; the loss of the disciplines.  During Lent I fasted and read through prayers.  When Lent was over I stopped.  During Lent I led a Bible study through Romans.  We happened to finish before Easter.  The disciplines in my life have nearly ceased. 

What I'm feeling is not the restlessness of needing something new, but the ache of needing something ancient, something practiced.  In the middle of it I questioned if my Lenten fast was actually producing any spiritual product in me.  In its absence I now see what it did.   

In Exodus 24:7, the people of Israel respond to God's covenant, marked by the giving of the Ten Commandments, and in the Hebrew what they say is translated as, "we will do and we will hear."  The doing, the practice, would precede the hearing, the deeper understanding and life-propelling belief.  Maybe they didn't understand why keeping the Sabbath day set apart or how honoring the legacy of their families would benefit them at the start, but they agreed first of all to do -- to go through the motions and trust that God's pleasant relationship with them would be the result.

As a student of the spiritual disciplines I know this to be true.  How funny that I thought I'd take some time off from them.  The doing breaks down our ego that wants to preserve itself in perceived security and productivity.  The hearing can't happen when we're filled with other types of doing even when the agendas are of family, learning and ministry. 

The fast itself was not the goal; the open lines of dependence and attentiveness was.  The fast was not a means to an end; it was the viaduct of continual grace.  

We think that the doing is burdensome to us.  But missing the hearing bears a greater weight as I allow my mind and my spirit to wander in search of a regular place to land.  I can't hear unless I do.  I'm too crowded with good intentions.  And so I've begun my next season of discipline which will take me through the Ordinary Time.  And we'll just keep the doing going and trust that God's pleasant relationship will by my result.

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For two years I have had comments turned off as a discipline to write for myself. I'm seeing the other side. I just ask that you comment with grace.