I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that required me to give things up for Lent. Yet today I’m asking what I’m giving up for Lent.
Why now? I think it’s related to my health, my age, my ability to live as an independent woman, my need to have things go my way at this time in my life.
I feel quite well most of the time. Perhaps weary and a bit stressed out now and then, but not awful. Yet sometimes I fall over the edge–into anger or fear. It’s usually triggered when something doesn’t go the way I anticipated it would. It’s like throwing a lighted match into a dry haystack. Or going over a cliff. Too late to step back and do something different.
So what to do? I don’t have a magic formula. However, I’ve been reading a wonderful book about prayer. It’s Cynthia Bourgeault’s book called Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. It seems connected to what’s happening.
Her book is helping me reconsider these episodes. They flare up when I hit moments of extreme frustration. Sometimes they’re about my health and wellbeing. Other times they’re triggered by memories of things that happened to me as a professional woman.
The goal I’m after is this: to learn ways of interrupting what’s about to happen before I go over the cliff. I know I won’t learn this overnight. Still, I want to recognize, welcome and listen to those small signs before I go over the cliff or say things I’ll regret. Sometimes that’s not possible. Other times, it is.
As part of this discipline, Cynthia offers a litany written by a friend. It’s a prayer to be offered as often as needed, without having to make it up myself. It’s for the moment I realize my frustration and anger are escalating, ready to overflow. It won’t work if I’ve already exploded.
I grew up believing everything unwelcome in me needed to be ‘fixed’ if not denounced and forsaken. Slam the door in its face! Send it packing! Or at least keep it hidden in a closet. It’s not the ‘real me.’
This, however, is about the real me. The person I am in God’s presence. Just as I am. Especially when I’m unhappy about the way things are going. What’s happening in me has something to tell me. Instead of slamming the door in its face or denying its presence, perhaps I could welcome it. Listen, and learn from it. After all, it’s part of me whether I like it or not.
So here’s the litany, an active giving up of something. Not just for Lent.
I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation.
Quoted by Cynthia Bourgeault in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 147 (Cowley Publications 2004)
I long to stay fully present to God and, so far as possible, to the truth about myself. No matter what rises to the surface or comes at me without warning. Whether it’s anger, fear, pain or death itself.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 March 2017
Image found at kairosjourney.org