One of the joys I have been given in my Christian and Spiritual journey is that of the season of Lent. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I felt intimidated, disconnected and a flat-out failure around all that Lent represented. I would set goals, only to not meet them; I would attempt to take on a new discipline only to have my word and commitment mean nothing. Truly it felt
like the longest 40+ days ever, and I often just wanted to get it over with.
Yet, by God’s grace in my life, I sit today as one who embraces and cherishes this sacred season. My view has been shifted to one of gratitude. Gratitude for this holy and sacred time with God. To say that I live a very full, busy and demanding life would be an understatement. I am blessed not only to have an abundance of work, but also to be actively engaged in many communities where my time and talents are welcomed and used. Most of the time, I’m an over-extender – over-achiever. I give and give of myself and love doing it. Yet, I fail miserably when it comes to slowing down to take care of myself, and to nurture my relationship with God & Jesus. THAT is where the gift of Lent shows up. It’s as if I’ve been given permission to alter my way of being drastically for this period of time with the invitation and reminder on Ash Wednesday that from ashes I came, and to ashes I shall return. In its simplicity, I am reminded of my mortality, and that the only time I have is now, this moment. I guess I’m someone who needs permission to pull back, to retreat. And so, this Lenten Season I gave much prayer and consideration to how I might do that.
Being still and being alone with God seems to be the most difficult things for me to do. Transforming myself from an active, doing, fixing, type-A being into one who will be still and present was the call. To take my ‘aloneness’ that I bury and hide, and to place it prayerfully and vulnerably in God’s hand each day – so that I am no longer alone but rather, that I am alone with God. The Holy One. God and me – together are one. The Holy One.
My practice has been to take time each day to sit in stillness and silence. After attending a recent retreat day with James Finley where he led us through simple yet profound steps in contemplative & meditative commune with God – I felt I had the tools I needed. (yes, my type-A brain wanted tools!). Whether sitting in my living room or office, back yard or church, or as I did today – in my hotel room in Taiwan, I have committed to joining God in the stillness and quiet. It has not been easy to keep my thoughts and other interruptions at bay –but I am imperfect and God’s love for me in spite of me helps me to let go of my self-judgment.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a natural hot springs spa here in Taiwan. Because I was traveling alone, I had to use the common facilities on the women’s side (rather than a private couples facility offered to other tourists in my group). At first I felt envious that they had a private area in which to enjoy the healing waters (my self-conscious western brain wanted not to be nude publicly). However, once I navigated the way to the pools (common shower, everyone nude, no towel to cover up with), I miraculously became not an outsider but a part of a greater community of women. They noticed me, and guided me without a common language in the proper ways of using the facilities, and when I finally sat in the healing sulfur waters, I closed my eyes and gave thanks to God. Here I was, placed in the midst of a community where I was the foreigner – and yet was welcomed and almost immediately was no longer any different than any other woman there. I was one of many, and yet one. And God was present in their warm smiles, their curious gazes, their kind directions, and in the space they provided to me to just sit and be.
In my meditation this morning, the profound message from God was that I am not alone. I am one person, and in a country that is not familiar, and yet I am not ever alone. In my deepest longing for belonging, God is with me and I belong. I pray to carry this with me beyond this Lenten season, to be mindful always.