Today has been a glorious day of spring rains, routine errands and family time. Today has not been what I would normally label a successful, productive, or particularly meaningful day, but today this feels perfect.
My mind works in very random, jumpy ways and I have spent most of my life denouncing it as defective. Because of this I have always craved routine, order and discipline, while, at the same time, avoiding, fearing and finding them unattainable. So, normally I would look for validation for my day by naming the things checked off my "to do" list, or by showing a gorgeous family picture and saying "LOOK, I have successfully spent quality time with my nearly-perfect children and husband" or by having a more-spiritual-than-thou day and embracing the chore-boycotting rain with a long meditation and a prayer of gratitude for the water cycle.
But today has been a mix of a little productivity, a little leisure time, a lot of family time, a little watching it rain, some quiet prayer time, and now some blogging time...
and I am so happy! There is no temptation to condemn the "wasting" of time, or to over-analyze the quiet time, or over-glorify the family time. There is just acceptance and joy (**gasps and holds hand over mouth** could this mean I am finally an Adult?).
Today I sat and prayed for an hour (at church we signed up to keep a prayer vigil for 24 hours) and during that time I was able to reflect on the experiences and growth the last 45 days have brought me. I spent time reflecting on why Jesus matters, and how I can relate this fast and what I've learned during these days to living a life that is more Christ-like every day. Well, I must correct myself... "why Jesus matters" is too big a topic for me to tackle in one blog post, but I can at least explain why He matters to me.
I think of Jesus as the greatest metaphysical teacher and spiritual leader of all time, and his teachings are the most practical tools for living a life that is respectful, loving, happy, fulfilled, and meaningful. Jesus teaches us how to free ourselves from our fears and our vices, He models a life of acceptance and meaning, and challenges us to be more, to do more, to matter more.
I used to think that when you gave up something for Lent, or you had to suffer through some unavoidable problem in your life, you would do it and "offer it to God" (as my mother used to say) so that someone somewhere would get some benefit from your suffering. To this day I am not sure that that is what my mother meant, but that's how I always interpreted it:
--My body would willingly hurt somebody for a tortilla chip right now.
--I don't eat the tortilla chip, nor hurt anyone, and I say a prayer offering this bothersome/uncomfortable/painful/annoying/scary/horrible situation to God "for" the hungry kids in Africa/the tsunami victims in Japan/the people with tortilla chip allergies.
--I try to find consolation for my unfulfilled craving in the vague notion that someone somewhere is bothered/uncomfortable/pained/annoyed/scared/horrified less because I just took on some of their plight.
Yeah, OK, I still see how that makes sense, and it really is beautifully poetic and generous.
BUT, as I've gotten older I've realized (this year more clearly than ever) that if that is all we get out of our sacrifice, we are almost wasting our time. There is so much more that we can learn from facing our difficulties (be them self imposed or not) if we tackle them with the intention of growing, learning, improving, becoming a better tool for God! (if you don't believe in God, fine, it doesn't matter, replace that with "becoming a better member of society").
The last 45 days have been transformational not because I have said a quiet prayer for people with addictions every time I craved a latte, but because I was freed from my own addictions; not because I thanked God for having food when I was hungry, but because I was shown that I have the strength to handle hunger; not because I have prayed for obese people every time I stepped on the scales and there was no significant change, but because I have realized that the extra weight was self-destructive and I --a child of God made in Her image-- deserve to treat myself better than that. The last 45 days have made me a much better version of myself, and THAT'S what God wants from sacrifice. The better we are the better equipped we are to serve our fellow man!
(Yes, I do realize many of you are probably saying "WOW. She's 40 years old and she only figured that out NOW?" but as much as I am tempted to turn this post into something more self-flattering, I won't. I have always been a late bloomer and I am finally OK with that.)
So now that I am a better version of myself, the question remains... what drastic challenge am I going to give myself next to continue growing towards transcending "myself" and becoming a better person -period?