I have really wrestled with discerning a Lenten practice this year. I had thought that I would “give up” certain things in my eating habits this Lent, although in other Lents, I more often have added things–works of charity and love, connections, extra giving. However, as today got nearer and nearer, I was increasingly uneasy about that the “giving up” choice, since what I long for in a practice is a window to connecting with the Holy One, not a obligatory box to check off to demonstrate my piety. Through night prayers and tossing and turning, I asked myself what right now seems to be blocking my spirit and freedom to receive and enfold the gifts of God. I had to own that what gets in my way many mornings and nights is my habit of hanging on to the negative, judgemental and toxic, and not allow the good, the hopeful and affirming to enrich my life. Therefore, even though it will be healthy to make dietary changes, that action does not point me to the Mystery we call God. So, back to the Lenten sketch pad!
In the wee hours of the morning these old familiar words from Psalm 37 bubbled up out of my darkness. Take delight in the Lord, and God will give you the desires of your heart.” (V. 4) The challenge to TAKE DELIGHT struck a deep chord in my heart. Instead of prying my hand open to let go of an unhealthy habit, I was being invited to turn my hand upward to receive the delights that the Holy has for me, even the love and affirmation that God has for who I am, just the way I am. I checked with my favorite paraphrase of the Psalm from Swallow’s Nest by Marchienne Vroon Rienstra, and see that she expands that thought even more generously: If you delight yourself in God/ She will give you the desires of your heart…She will make your integrity shine like the daylight/, your beauty glow like the moon and the sun.
So I begin this Lenten season. these 40 days, with a lighter and more open heart, with the question: where do I experience the delight of God–in me. in my location, even in the world? And noticing it, let my heart praise what I see, and then share that good news with those around me? In the words of Mary Oliver: Pay attention, Be astonished, Tell about it. I understand this invitation to be not one of passivity, but of an energy that takes me from sharpened awareness to deep heart praise, to active sharing of goodness with a world that is desperate for hope, healing and grace.
My heart is grateful for the Midnight Caller, the Spirit that brings illumination even in my darkness. May the Lenten journey be one of deepening, widening, opening and trusting for me and all of us!