Last year I gave up sugar and caffeine for Lent. (The caffeine was harder at first, but sugar was harder long term.) This year, I didn’t really have anything specific I felt I needed to give up. Instead, I just wanted to embrace the prayerful spirit of the season. Not in a frivolous way mind you. In a concentrated way. Between regular runs, Taize services, yoga, and nights at home, I’ve had a lot of time to practice prayer.
So this year during lent, I’ve been learning what it means to marinate, to meditate, to be captured by an idea. Meditating is not a natural talent of mine. I have a restless spirit. I always have. I am most happy when I have a new problem to solve, mess to organize, person to know, skill to master, etc.
And lo and behold, something very strange has taken place over the past several weeks. I’ve been unable to get away from a phrase: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” (It’s from Psalm 23). The part that has taken hold is the word “makes.” Like I have to be forced. Like God has to grab my shoulders and sit me down. Not in a desolate wasteland or in a chair in the corner, but in a green pasture.
The rest of this post is just jumbled thoughts, so bear with me.
I get this image of my sister’s dog Grace. She is an overflowing source of puppy energy. But she also loves getting treats and is very intelligent. One of the skills my sister is attempting to ingrain in Grace is the command to “stay.” It’s an interesting one to watch in action. The command structure usually goes: “Sit. Down. Stay….sttaayyyy….Stay! No. Sit. Down. Stay….staaayyyy….staayyyyyy….” Are you getting the mental picture? The whole time Grace is sitting there with a big puppy grin on her face, muscles coiled, ready to spring up and claim her prize for her demonstrated patience. I can be such a puppy.
On a recent Saturday morning, I did some baking. One of my creations included this step: let dough rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Maybe part of lying down in a green pasture is allowing the dough to rest before it makes the final transformation to the finished product. Because usually, that final transformation requires a lot of work. In my case it involved rolling, cutting, layering, filling, smashing, and baking. Good thing the dough was well rested and ready!
One of the things my yoga instructor says all the time is, “be aware.” Be aware of your breath, of your body, of your balance, etc. It’s amazing how much you can be aware of if you actually take the time to be still and listen. In my season of prayer, I’ve been able to become aware of things in my life I didn’t see before. Specifically, wounds and feelings I thought had healed. And now that I’m aware, I can deal with them. After all, after “he makes me to lie down in green pastures,” he “restores my soul.” That’s a reassuring thought indeed.
Probably the biggest thought of all, though my restless spirit is constantly crying out for a new adventure, God has also opened my eyes to show me that I'm living in a green pasture. I have a herd. I think I’m just beginning to see how much of a blessing they are to me. And even though there are things my heart yearns for, I have been able to open my eyes and see the bounty that surrounds me now.
Marinating. That’s what I feel like I’ve been doing during lent. Soaking, being broken down, tenderized, flavored….prepared for …who knows?
I don’t know how this jumble resolves yet. But I have faith that it will.