Friday, March 30, 2012

The Cup

My son and I celebrate Fun Fridays. He's off from school, I'm off from work. Today, the sun is shining. He was watching his favorite show, Curious George, and I was sitting out on my back deck, listening to the birds, reading, sipping tea, praying, just generally enjoying the fact that, yet again, we will be having  spectacularly glorious weather for Fun Friday.

And then I heard a knock on the window behind my head.  As I turn around I see my son's face pressed up against the window. "Mom, can I have some ice water?"

Now, I'm not saying it's hereditary from his father or anything, (awkward clearing of throat) but the child is less than observant of his surroundings. 9 times out of 10 he will ask me for something without even looking for it.  Possibly I have played into this habit by miraculously always knowing where things are. (What is that? My mom was the same way and I always thought she had superpowers. Possibly some weird gene switches on when you hold your baby for the first time that enables you to remember where anything and everything that child could ever possibly want or need is hiding in your home.) 

But there it was. The question. That I get asked just about every morning. And just about every morning I have already poured this child a cup of ice water that is sitting nicely on a coaster roughly 12 inches from his nose.  He is sitting there when I place it in front of him. And he takes the time to walk out of the room, down the stairs and find me to ask me for it before looking those 12 inches to see if it's there. Like it almost always is.

I do say "almost always" because I'm definitely not perfect. I sometimes forget.  But I'm regular enough that this child should at least CHECK before coming to look for me, right?

So, as his little face was pressed up to the window very politely asking me for what he had already been given, I was very struck by a God moment.  And wondered if sometimes God feels like I'm banging on the glass with my nose pressed up, too distracted to see what's actually within the range of my vision, to already see what I've been given. To already see that a prayer has been answered, a cup of water provided.

So, after I gently told my sweet boy that his water was already on the table where it usually is and he smiled, said thanks and went back upstairs, I just sat for a few minutes.  And asked God to help me see the places where he has already answered me.  The places where I am expecting to have to ask again, but he has already put my water on the table. I am so used to asking so many questions that it can be a real act of discipline to just listen.  But this is what Lent has been all about for me anyway, so why should I be surprised that here, again, was a gentle reminder to stop striving, stop asking, stop demanding. And just be.

So, I'm sipping the water that's in front of me this morning. I'm thankful for the ways that He has sustained me through so much asking during the past few years. The ways that he has invigorated my marriage through our struggle with infertility, the ways he has bonded me to my child because of the ways we've had to wait together for a common desire, the provision of incredible network of old and new friends around me who are overwhelmingly supportive of our adoption and committed to reminding me of the truth when the nursery feels so empty. Thankful, most of all, that while I was still far off, God rescued me.  That in this last week before Easter I can be reminded of my God, one who made the ultimate sacrifice to give me a cup overflowing with living water so that I would never be thirsty again. 

That cup is always right in front of me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Whole Lent Thing

Growing up I can easily remember that messy start to the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday.  At the time, my understanding was that it was a strictly Catholic thing and my friends, usually the ones with more devout parents , would show up to school with a dirty smudge on their foreheads and a grumpy look on their faces.  A look, to my understanding, that was to be characteristic of the Lenten season wherein people should be more solemn and moody as a reflection of the spirit of the time. (Because teenage personalities are often solemn and moody anyway, there was no way to refute or confirm my theory at the time.)   

My church, for the record, never talked about Lent. I had no idea that it was actually a season observed by Protestants too or, for that matter, that there were Protestants and Catholics alike who actually took the season seriously and saw God working in their faith in new and specific ways through their fasting or abstinence or reading.  It wasn’t until I got to college that a friend first asked me “what I was giving up for Lent” and I had to wrestle with the reality that this season might include me in some way. 

Fast forward many years from that first asked question, several seasons of giving something up (chocolate, desserts, sugar…do you see a theme? Yes, I should’ve gone sugar-free a long time ago. Clearly I am an addict) and a vaguely growing feeling of guilt and obligation that would set in some time after January each year in anticipation of what I would need TO DO.  I, the person who didn’t even know what Lent really was until I was 20, could not receive it as a gift and time to focus on God and release areas of selfishness, but as a legalistic check mark in my little Christian daytimer.  Sigh.

This year, in an overt attempt to avoid being legalistic, I chose to ignore Lent altogether.  This may have been a less than helpful response but not particularly surprising since my husband likes to point out (lovingly and often) that I am usually all-in or all-out, intense to a fault about my decisions. (And yes, this tendency in me is also what leads me to do things like break my toe while energetically aerating my lawn with a tiller.)  But for the last week and a half, I have been thinking a lot about Lent and wondering if (a) it’s ok to get on the Lent train late or if you lose some points that way and (b) why I even care when it was supposed to have been freeing to NOT participate this year. (For those currently panicking about my theology, the “points” thing was a joke.)  

So, this morning, as I sat reading and praying and thinking for the first time in awhile, it hit me.  I have been spending a lot of time running from God lately.  I am aware of it, I know it’s going on and I am doing just about nothing to turn and run in the right direction. Mostly it is because I am tired. I am tired of dealing with my mind churning about with questions about God’s sovereignty, I am tired of all the waiting, I am tired of always feeling like no matter how quality the time I spend with God is, that in the back of my mind I am still confused about the last three years of our lives and what God’s role in them has been.  I am tired of people telling me that “God has a plan” or that “He must be trying to teach me something” or that “the minute I really let go and trust Him, I’ll get what I want.”  Just tired.  And I realized the most freeing thing I actually could do would be to enter into this time of Lent.  Not to get something out of it, not because I would feel better by sacrificing something or to check something off, but because my soul needs to do this.  It needs to enter into Jesus’ pain, into his waiting, his knowledge of what was to come, his need to draw close to His father while he waited for his death and his choice to live fully and freshly in every day even as he knew what was coming.  And I need to, rather than giving up something tangible, give up  my need for understanding right now.  Maybe not forever, but for right now.  To breathe a prayer each morning that inhales trust and exhales confusion.     

So, eleven days late, I’m on board.  I haven’t attended any services or done any specific readings (probably because I made this decision about a half an hour ago), but I’m hoping the accountability of the season will reorient the direction of my feet and that I will be able to sing these words of the song Forever Reign, 

“I’m running to your arms, I’m running to your arms, the riches of your love will always be enough,"

and mean them.