The Problem with Lent, Part 2

Well, I appreciated the feedback that I got with my last post, “The Problem with Lent.”  In it, I asked about spiritual droughts, and particularly, what you do when you are in one.  Do you press forward with spiritual practices, even when you seem to get nothing from them?  Or do you take a break and wait for some sort of desire to return?

Honestly, the only thing I really know how to do is to press forward.  And so I did.  I actually wrote that post in the middle of last week, and so enough time has passed for me that I am in somewhat of a different place.

I caught up on my One Year Bible, reading all seven days one afternoon, mostly sitting in the library while Anna played some of their games.  A lot of people died in Numbers.  The last story I read on “catch up” day was the one where the Israelites go and conquer a bunch of people and kill all the men.  They bring the women and children back alive, and God asks them why they did that.  He then tells them to kill all the women and boys, but to save the virgins for themselves.

To be honest, I didn’t take it well.

First, I imagined if a society did that today, and then I pictured that happening to my own family.  Poor Anna!  I imagined the scene, the tears, the begging.  I wondered about the God who would order such a thing.  I was tempted to just stop thinking about it, to run and hide behind Isaiah 55:8-9.  Like I mentioned in the comments of the last blog, that just seemed like a cop out to me, though.  I have this assumption that God can handle our questions.  So I asked Him about it.  And I talked to Greg about it.  We had a really good talk, in fact.  And my friend, Molly, and I discussed it.  And our talks really helped me.  They didn’t explain everything in the way I wanted, but they allowed me to really think out loud without having to worry about being thought of as a heretic.

And so I kept reading the Bible.  I’m in Deuteronomy now.

I also kept dragging myself out of bed, for the most part.  I went back to my trusty notebook and pen, and the prayers started flowing again.  My prayers are hardly models of beauty and devotion right now…but they are, um…there.  It especially helped that this past weekend I got roped into “prayer patrol” for a friend.  My impromptu praying responsibilities helped get me back on the right track.

As for serving, I went to serve dinner at Y.E.S. last Tuesday like I always do.  My enthusiasm level on the way there was rock bottom, and I was mentally whining about how hard it is to get to know the kids this time around.  It was so easy when I was a college student, but now that I have two kids of my own to keep up with while I’m there, it is so much more difficult.  I continued to think about my conundrum at the center, while sitting outside on a porch swing and comforting Anna, who had taken a tumble down the bleachers.  I had just sent her and Luke to play in my line of sight on the playground, when a sweet little 4th grader named Corina bounded up to me and asked if I could help her with her homework.  She acted like we were old friends as I helped her look up the definitions to her vocabulary words and explained to her what “parts of speech” were.  After a few minutes, her friend, Cassandra came and joined us on the swing, casually draping herself across my lap to talk to Corina and joke with me.  Then, at dinner, I sat by Nyana, Andrea, and Selena, three girls whom I didn’t know, but who were all extremely friendly and kind. It was the first week where I felt like I really got to know some kids.  And it came from no effort of my own.

Then last Friday, Greg left for a retreat, which always puts me in what I call “super” mode.  My disdain for cleaning and cooking melted away as I whipped the house back into shape in preparation for being a single parent.  For the first time in weeks, I enjoyed working.

I didn’t give up my Lenten fast, although I seriously considered it, and I cheated a few times (like last night).  I decided that as pathetic as my efforts have been, they are teaching me good lessons about denial and self-control.  And since then, God has given me several “boosts” to get through.  Twice in the last week, I have been completely ready to throw in the towel and on my way to get Oreos or ice cream or whatever it is I’ve been wanting…only to find when I get there that I have no desire for them.  None at all.  I had been craving them all day…until I gave up and went to eat them.  I really do not understand that.

But the moment I decided that my short-lived drought was officially over was on Monday, when I got home from school and realized that I had about half an hour to kill before I went and picked up Anna.  I thought about how to spend my half hour, and it occurred to me that I really wanted to spend it with God.  Wanted to.  It was a beautiful day and I took my Bible out to the swing…but I didn’t read it.  Instead, I just sat and looked at the beautiful nature all around me.  My eyes were especially drawn to all those amazing, bright green blades of grass.  So many of them…created by God.  I looked at them and all around me at God’s creation, and suddenly the stories of Numbers that didn’t make sense to me didn’t seem as important.  Even though I still didn’t understand them, I definitely understood the message of, “LOVELOVELOVE” that was coming from every blade of grass and every flower on every bush.  And I realized that I never doubted God’s love for the people He created.  I don’t understand His methods sometimes, but I don’t doubt His love.  I know that probably sounds weak (“I don’t understand the Bible, but the flowers tell me that God loves me, so I’m cool”), but what can I say?  It’s what works for me.

This week was supposed to be “drought” week on the blog.  Unfortunately for my well-laid plans, it rained.  That wasn’t so great for my blogging schedule, but it was good for my soul.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tim on March 29, 2012 at 11:00 am

    What a week you’ve had!

    In part one you wrote: “Now, it is not totally bleak. Nature continues to draw me to God, and this is a wonderful time of year.”

    Here in part two you write: “I just sat and looked at the beautiful nature all around me. My eyes were especially drawn to all those amazing, bright green blades of grass. … I definitely understood the message of, ‘LOVELOVELOVE’ that was coming from every blade of grass and every flower on every bush.”

    I see a pattern here, Kim. (Nothing gets by me, you know. Almost nothing. Well, some things do.) Nature really is God’s general revelation isn’t it, and I’ve even heard it referred to as God’s word writ large. It’s like God gave us his word in the Bible in order to teach us, and that he gave us creation in which to live what he taught us there. Sounds to me like you had that complete package this week.

    And about whether I push forward or take a break and wait, I do both. Taking a break is something I learned from G.K. Chesterton. He said that whenever he ever found himself feeling like he was doubting his faith, he’d lie down until the feeling went away. That’s worked for me, and is the path I choose more often the older I get, Kim.

    Tim

    Reply

  2. Posted by bekster081305 on March 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Very cool, Kim. :) And I can relate about how challenging it can be to connect to new, especially young people. I have been “helping” (uh, showing up and “being” there) with the youth group here (los jovenes). It is tricky to connect with teenagers anyway, but with the language barrier I often wonder if I should continue to bother. But, SLOWLY I am getting to know more of the kids, and the adult leaders continue to ask me to come. There is one girl in particular who I feel really doesn’t like me, but I try to smile at her whenever I see her anyway. I am starting to think, though, that when I feel like people don’t like me, it is more that I intimidate them (being older and a “gringa”). Whenever I get the chance, I try to show them that I really am a nice, approachable person, and that I do know enough Spanish to have at least a surface conversation. It is hard, as I really don’t like the feeling of people appearing not to like me. But, I am trying to “push through” with this as well. We’ll see how it goes.

    Oh, and I have also been in a situation recently that was leaving me very discouraged as I was trying to get traction in a friendship with one of my Nica peers here. I was agonizing over each interaction, but I was also praying. I began to notice that every time I would feel frustrated about how things were going, the next thing that would happen would be something positive. I finally got to the point where I was like, “now WHY am I worrying about this?” I decided to trust God (to REALLY trust Him, not just to pray and then continue worrying), and so far it has been working fabulously for me. I still get frustrated about the situation sometimes, but I have faith now that things will work out… and then they do. It’s amazing how that works.

    I know that these examples are not exactly what your situation is/was, but the point is that, even when the “good” things we are trying to do don’t “feel” right at the time, God’s plan is still progressing. Maybe it’s not that we should stop trying to do them, it’s that we need to rest in God’s care and trust that even our “low” periods have purpose. (It sounds like you know this anyway, but lately it has been a big internal lesson for myself. Typing it out here helps me to understand it better.) However, I do agree with Tim that sometimes we should take breaks. I also really like what he said, though, about waiting “until the feeling went away.” It’s like with exercise (not that I’m ANY kind of an expert there). When you are doing your sit-ups (or whatever) and it HURTS, sometimes you just need to push through the pain and finish the rep, but other times (like if the pain is not in your muscles but in your spine), it may be a good idea to stop so you don’t damage yourself.

    Well, anyway, I’m glad you seem to be in a good place now.

    Reply

    • Becky,
      I totally agree with you about God’s plan “still progressing” even when things don’t “feel” right. It’s funny, b/c I think emotions get a bad rap in the church, and one day, I plan to write a blog post about that very phenomenon (when I feel I can do it justice). I do, however, believe that emotions must be held in…not subjection, exactly…but in tension with reason. And so even when our emotions tell us that something is worthless, but we KNOW that it’s good, I usually think the best course of action is to go with what we know. So yes, I totally agree that our “low periods have purpose.” In fact, a lot of older Christian thinkers speak about something called “the dark night of the soul,” which is a time when God seems to completely withdraw from you, and you have no feelings of comfort from religion or from communion with Him. As hard as these times are, the understanding is that they come from God and that they serve a spiritual purpose.

      As for struggling to relate to young people (or even peers, as the case may be), I know it is hard. It seems like you have a good grasp of the situation, though, and so I would just say to keep doing what you are doing and trust God to bear the fruit. I love hearing about the work that you guys are doing there!

      Reply

      • Posted by Tim on March 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm

        Kim, the idea that our emotions and reason are in tension with each other, that they each have a place without one necessarily ruling over the other all the time, is an awesome insight!

        Tim

        Reply

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