I started reading Natalie Goldberg’s new book, The True Secret of Writing, and a chapter called What is Practice? intrigued me. In one of her classes, Goldberg asked her students to choose a practice that they could do for a year. Some of the ambitious choices included consistent exercise (as in running five miles a day), daily writing, and giving up french fries. It actually made me think about Lent because for many of us it is a 40 day attempt to “practice” something. After a few months, she inquired about how they were doing and found that many students sheepishly admitted that things weren’t going so well.
How about you? Twelve days into Lent, how is it going? If you had hoped to fill 40 bags in 40 days, are you like me and have only one half filled trash bag sitting next to your desk? Or if you gave up sweets, do you find yourself searching your pantry for any snack that wouldn’t be breaking your Lent, but would somehow fill that need you have for sugar? Are you already frustrated with yourself for your inability to really be spiritual and humble and different than you were a mere week and a half ago?
Goldberg writes, “Struggling with something, failing has a great effect – a gap opens, you realize you don’t know everything – a little emptiness forms where you can receive something.” P. 40
Are we willing to admit to these little openings of emptiness enough for Jesus to enter them? Is this the true gift of sacrifice and discipline? We begin to see our inadequacy, the ways we justify our behavior, our longings to feel better about ourselves by achieving, producing and succeeding.
Instead of beating ourselves up for this struggle, what if we brought it to the Lord and asked Him to enter these places in us? As I look at that half filled, black trash bag on my bedroom floor, my tendency is to berate myself and question why I can’t get it together and just be consistent for once. An even bigger temptation is to just throw in the towel, put the trash bags away, and just pretend that I never really even thought about that project for Lent. Both temptations don’t bring me any closer to the Lord.
This morning, I sit before the Lord aware of the “gaps” in my life and ask Him to enter them, to fill those places I cannot fill and to help me understand His power and His gift of grace, salvation and love. As each day of Lent passes, I want to focus on the life that Jesus lived and the sacrifices He made for us, not because we deserved it, but because He loved us more than we can ever really comprehend.
Let’s stop beating ourselves up so much and practice resting in the truth of who we are in Christ.
For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. – Psalm 107:9