Thursday, February 25, 2010

Giving up for Lent

I tried giving up for Lent, but I just couldn't do it. I'm not talking about making a sacrifice. I'm talking about giving up, throwing in the towel, calling it quits.

I think it started with Bridget's Valentine's Eve trip to the animal emergency hospital with a urinary tract infection, a late-night trip that left me feeling tired instead of romantic for Valentine's on Sunday. Before that, judging from my daily journal and correspondence, I was in pretty good spirits. Since then, things large and small have seemed a struggle: work; routine tasks; singing; trying to get the cat to take her pills; smiling; communicating; deciding; understanding.

I briefly posted a Facebook status update that I'd decided to just give up for Lent. But I quickly deleted it. It was too negative. It was inspired by stores not having my favorite cookies and gum -- two items I thought about giving up for Lent and decided against, and then I couldn't find them. (Yes, God has a sense of humor. That's one more thing I'm grateful for.)

Although I deleted that expression, I couldn't shake the negativity and frustration. Now, it seemed to be related to the overlap of the start of Lent and the end of the church stewardshp campaign, for which I was the chairwoman, a stressful role for me. (And I was resentful because the campaign should have been over before Thanksgiving or on Valentine's Day, but I guess God was being funny again!)

Forunately, an Ash Wednesday worship service included communion and a time for prayer and reflection. I needed that -- praying for strength and faith and focus and whatever it takes to not get frustrated or discouraged or overwhelmed. I was reminded that God wants obedience, not sacrifice. And sometimes obedience requires sacrfice (of my will). And God loves a cheerful giver and a humble, gracious servant. I know these things. He's leading and teaching. I'm sometimes a reluctant student.

Finally, the stewardship commitment and celebration Sunday came. I prayed to just let go and let God! This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Great is God's Faithfulness. And the day was filled with joy, blessings and musical reminders that "because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything that I need," and that "new every morning are God's love and compassion."

Unfortunately and for reasons I don't understand, Monday brought a new round of frustrations that have continued all week. It seems like the harder I try, the less I accomplish. I ask for answers and guidance and get none. One colleague suggested I do what seems right to me. I quickly relearned that's a surefire way to find out what the bosses DON'T want!

And so I find myself thinking -- sometimes saying aloud -- I just want to give up.

But amid the distress, I continued praying and returned to daily Bible reading I'd gotten behind on. Verses from Psalm 37 fortified my spirit: (3-6) "Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun."

So, no, I'm not giving up for Lent. The spiritual journey continues.

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