a little and a lot

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Death of Comfort

I love traditions and rituals.  I am kind of a traditions junkie.  I have started so many of them that inevitably some have fallen by the wayside.  These days (with a kiddo who never forgets), I'm always thinking ahead to what precedence I'm setting for ten years down the road...

Lent is a holiday tradition I feel like I've celebrated practiced differently every year, in search of the one perfect way I'd like to continue annually.  (I find myself compelled to think of Lent as a holiday that people celebrate...you know, before people celebrate the holiday of Easter.  Is it a holiday?  If it is, can it be "celebrated?"  It seems like such a sobering period of time.)

I have a fascination-dread with this time of year on Facebook.  And by this time of year, I mean any holiday the recognized on the world calendar.  Because it means that there are a billion articles going around judging each other for the different ways people think about or practice any given holiday.   
"Hey Christmas over-spenders, do you feel guilty yet?" 
"Hey Christmas teetotalers, you are such over-spiritual killjoys!"
"Do you even know what Presidents Day is about, you uneducated dimwit?" 
"You're giving up ____ for Lent?  How cliche and/or not adequate."
Boooooo.  Enough with the internet judgment, people.  But, I digress.  

The truth is, the season of Lent snuck up on me this year.  I found myself pondering a lot of options kind of last minute in the following fashion:

"Ooo, we are SO addicted to sugar.  I should give up sugar.  I mean, maybe just sweets.  Or processed food?  Mmmm, I'm hungry--I'm going to ask Nick to make an ice cream run."

"I could give up media.  Wait, Parenthood just came back on after that ridiculously long hiatus.  Never mind."

"Or what if I started practicing something?  Running every day.  Perfect.  I need to get back up to my old mileage anyways..."

So, I felt these were lame grasping-at-nothings.  I was a little too excited about the opening of Calvary Episcopal's annual Waffle Shop (seriously, a highlight in my year) and a little underwhelmed with the whole season of suffering or whatever it is.  And then in subconscious self-defense, I spent half a day swept up in the can't-look-away-train-wreck social media judginess party.  

Eventually, it bubbled to the surface.

I am struggling with an idol of comfort lately.  It is coming out in what I crave...what I seek...what I desire...what I value...how I relate...

I find myself avoiding hard things.  That can be argued as an instinct of self-preservation.  But it can also be challenged as, well, selfishness.  

I don't want to give anything up...unless it benefits me for a selfish reason.  I don't want to add a practice to my daily routine...unless it, too, benefits me for a selfish reason.  Lately, I am a slave to my whims.  I feel irritated when I am being required to sacrifice.  I don't deny myself.  I have a hard time putting others first without feeling resentful.  THIS.  That's what I felt the Lord telling me.  THIS is what is clouding your vision and muffling your hearing in this Lenten season of less-of-me-and-more-of-Him.  

My natural inclination would be to take control of this situation by developing an organized system for it...to contain it with a ritual and set goals and control, control, control.  I felt a leading to resist this urge.

Instead, I hear a challenge.  An organic, everyday, changing challenge:
Do something hard today.

I "enjoyed" training for a full marathon a few years back (the quotes are there on purpose!), because in a tangible way, it taught my body how to suffer.  Running for hours is not "comfortable."  Your body rises to the occasion with training, but only to an extent.  The rest is just...doing it.  

In a time of prayer yesterday (by the way, at my house yesterday that looked like: tuning out Curious George while I drink smoothies at the kitchen table with my daughter), I felt led to this challenge: Do something hard today.  Deny yourself something you want.  Make yourself do something you don't feel like doing.  Turn those creaky wheels of self-denial.  

Is it a coincidence that after intentionally "doing something hard" yesterday, I convinced Nick to go out after the kiddo was asleep and buy me a slice of cake and a pint of Ben & Jerry's with the rest of my spending money?  (Oh so sad, but very true.)  This is the state of my self-will.  Funny, but pitiful.  And kind of hideous.  

So you're not going to get any daily devotions from me this year about this Lenten season.  But I'm listening to the Lord's challenge to me, and I'm stumbling along toward it.  Listen in, if you'd like, and I'll share along the way.


Adopting Rhet: Click on the timeline above to read more