When you’re a Type-A personality recovering from a broken shoulder, it just makes sense to start Lent the Monday before Ash Wednesday. This year I selected the study of an online retreat based on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises (a link found via the campus ministry site at Loyola Marymount University). It won’t be true spiritual direction, but it’s a start. It’s supposed to be divided by weeks, but my plan is to take a week per day.
Day 1 — go through the photo album of your life back to your childhood contemplatively. There was also a reading called “The Courage to Accept Acceptance” http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/courage.html about what the human need for acceptance means and how God’s acceptance of us fits in with all that. A brilliant article really. There was one part that really gave me pause — that God always loves 100%. I’m still not sure I can wrap my head around such an “obvious” idea because it is hard for me to fathom the math of “always 100%.” The only answer is that God IS love, so it can never be reduced or depleted.
I was listening to a very carefully selected mix of Christian praise/worship music on my customized internet radio station, meditating on the various scripture verses contained within as I played a mindless video game when it all hit me…
Last September I went out for tea and a long conversation with a very dear friend after church one Sunday morning. It was a long conversation to get to the place where my friend said that I needed to understand that I am “already approved” by God…even if she had to beat it into me (her words!). What I wrote to her in the quiet hours of the late night and early morning was:
“[W]hat was bothering me all day — and is clearly bothering me still or I wouldn’t be writing this — is how in the world can I get to ‘approved’ if I can’t even get to ‘accepted’?????”
I went on further:
“I don’t have an answer to that. I am not God. I also don’t find myself to be particularly acceptable. Any frame of reference where God could find me acceptable is pretty far outside my frame of reference. I believe that ‘grace’ and ‘mercy’ are the operative words here. I understand those, as I understand love — those I [feel] well enough. It’s the ‘why?’ I can’t reconcile.”
I also mentioned the “life review” part of the day’s contemplations.
“I have access to almost no photographs of my life — they are mostly [in storage far away where I cannot access them]. I have blocked most of my life before twelve, and even much of [life after that] is blocked…[B]ecause my M.O. was to write everything down, I kept ‘allowing’ myself to keep blocking out my life, but because I have it all written down, I have a written record from YEARS of my life for which I have no memory. It comes back in the reading, but so too comes back the realization for why I blocked it all in the first place. I spent far too long captive to some very evil and insane stuff — watching what that was doing to my mind and my soul as I read words bleeding with pain and tears is not exactly the best (or healthiest) way to pass the time. [I love] some of the ‘outliers’ of the gospel for that very reason (especially Mary Magdalene).”
All that said, and given everything already going on in my life in the aftermath of the accident, this year’s Lenten journey to the cross and beyond does not begin in a place of peaceful surrender. But I am not in a place without the contemplation of hope. Last week a dear friend sent me the following:
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
— St. Thérèse of Lisieux
In those words I find hope and direction for picking up life and moving forward to wherever God is leading me. — VKS