Giving Up, Giving To

Fallen leaf discovered at the lovely

Leu Gardens

I've known Ash Wednesday was upon us all week. For the last two weeks, in fact, Kirk and I have been discussing our hope to attend services today at one or both of the two churches we attend right now. But even as I went to bed last night, I wasn't sure which way I would choose to observe this season of Lent that's upon us. I wasn't sure what I would "give up" in preparation for the coming of Easter.

Then this morning, Kirk sent me a link to a post that helped me frame this season in a thoughtful new light. It asked me to consider the question, How will I find ways to return to God with all my heart?

It seems appropriate to be entering a season that causes us to remember our own mortality and participate with Christ in his walk to the cross. This season of hiddenness is really about just that for me: asking God to teach me how to die, and, in that dying, beginning to identify more and more with Christ in his passion.

In some ways, I guess I have been living the season of Lent for some time now.

But I've begun to notice something curious in this season, too. I notice that even though I spend dedicated time with my Lord each morning, time that is fiercely precious to me . . . even while carving out several hours each day to commune with God in prayer and in the Scriptures and in noticing what God is doing in my heart and in writing privately about it . . . even as I notice so much growth and fruit and invitation from God to go deeper and deeper still in this place where he is bringing me, my life right now is also marked with some measure of avoidance.

Evenings are where this happens the most. I may work very hard throughout a day to meet a deadline or finish a project or get a lot of things done on my to-do list, and while doing them, I've come to depend much on God's grace to get them done. But I seem to lose steam by the end of the day, especially on days when I meet a significant goal that took most of my energy. At the end of those days, I start to regress. I indulge myself with activities that are mindless and don't ask anything of me, and I do so for several hours upon end.

That leads to nights like last night. Last night, after directing all my energies all day long toward projects that were significant in scope, I stayed awake until 4:30 a.m. The thing keeping me awake was my compulsion to watch episode after episode of Grey's Anatomy on my phone via Netflix streaming.

There's something in me that sees this as a problem and yet won't stop. I feel in myself an avoidance of something big, and it bothers me . . . and yet I keep doing it.

So in terms of finding ways to return to God with all my heart in this season of Lent, I decided this morning that I'm giving up this escapist binging at the end of each night. No more Grey's for the next forty days. No more activities that cause me to put off sleep out of some curious feeling of dread for the next day's coming. Instead, I will choose sleep at a reasonable hour and accompany my sleep with the daily Pray as You Go podcast that has recently become dear to me.

The lenten reflection I mentioned at the beginning of this post posed a second very helpful question. It asks, What will I give to? In other words, how will I make this season not just one of abstention but also one of deliberate movement toward God? The daily podcast is one helpful choice for me in this regard, but I've realized there's something more that will give God even greater opportunity to help me lean into my humanity and thereby depend on his grace.

It has to do with my three online spaces.

At the beginning of this year, I knew that the maintenance of these three online spaces were important to the emergence of the places God is leading me for my life's work and ministry. I told God yes in this. I agreed to make them a priority and matter of faithfulness. And yet life has become so busy lately that I've not maintained them with any degree of regularity.

The truth is, there are many stories to share in each of these spaces. I have whole lists of post ideas and stories inside my head for each one . . . and yet, when life gets busy, writing in these three spaces is the first thing to go.

At the root of this is probably pride. I hold myself to such a high standard -- especially when it comes to the blogs -- of telling stories right and in the correct sequence, and this causes me to anticipate the need for a whole lot of time to write each story and post well.

But in this time of busyness, there isn't a whole lot of time to do that. So I don't. And the days turn into weeks, and nothing gets shared or written.

So, for the next forty days, I will be giving myself to writing in these three spaces. I've decided I will aim to write something every day on at least one of the three sites and simply trust God to do what he wants to do with my stories and words, even if they're nowhere near perfect.

Because the truth is, the work of God through me and my words doesn't depend at all on my perfection. It simply depends on my faithfulness. It depends on my showing up to be used in the first place.

So, you're invited to join me. There are links to subscribe by e-mail or RSS in the sidebar of each of my online spaces (you can get to the other two through the banners at the top of this blog's sidebar). By subscribing, you're welcome to join me on this forty-day journey of writing my way through Lent.