Let me begin by saying that perseverance is not one of my foremost attributes. I tend to like the quick, the easy-breezy, and the least resistance way. I mean, in theory, sure, perseverance is good. It looks nice and inspiring on those life value posters with the dude climbing the mountain in the background. But when I ACTUALLY hit a rough patch in my life’s journey and have to KEEP TRUDGING through it, it gets not-as-fun. When I try walking through that rough patch while ALSO trying to imitate Jesus: putting my desires to death, practicing humility and forgiveness, loving those who aren’t loving me, it starts to HURT. Gosh I hate pain. I would so love to avoid it. But then, as cliché as this is, I know life doesn’t work that way.
The most growth happens in the long, rocky paths that force us to dig deep, to discover courage and strength we never knew were available to us. Scripture says, “…we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” The rough roads and slow going and hardships lead us to hope, but only THROUGH perseverance. That tells me that persevering will be WORTH IT, though DOGGONIT it’s hard.
Lent could be described as a “perseverance season”. We know the hope of celebration and resurrection is coming, but it’s a long way off yet. And the days of waiting get hard. Over the years, I’ve participated in Lent in different ways. I’ve fasted different foods, I’ve set aside time outside my normal routine to pray or reflect, I’ve gone through scripture study and Lenten devotionals, and it has all been so, so worth it. Truly. It’s hard to see the hope, though, when I’m still sweating it out, hiking my scary path, step by grueling step. It’s a cruel phenomenon that Lent also happens (for us in the Northern Hemisphere) on the tail end of winter, when we’re all desperately longing for spring and just SO over it. Here is my opinion of winter: it should end approximately on December 26th. C.S. Lewis hit upon the most horrible of nightmares in his fictional Narnia, where it is “always winter, never Christmas”. Yeeeeeesh. I shiver at the thought. So, remember when I said perseverance is not really my thing? Yeah, I have written proof. I was looking back at one of my journal entries during a Lenten season, and I found this excerpt:
“I clearly can’t handle much. I’m all eager and then my flesh is like ‘Mexico. Just run away to Mexico. This sucks. Just give up and eat everything.'”
That pretty much sums up my yearly temptation. But I can still say that persevering in those things paved a way for God to teach me in ways nothing else could. If Lent is foreign to you, or if fasting has never been a part of your life, I would encourage you to seek God in that way. Perseverance cultivates character and makes it blossom like nothing else. I wish for the sake of ease that my life told a different story, but I don’t think anyone’s does. And I don’t think that down deep, we’d want it to.
This Lent is unusual for me in that I haven’t decided on any fast or study. Every other year I’m drawn to something specific, and I “just know” what it is I need to do to reorient my life toward God during that time. This year, however, I’ve been waiting to know. The start of Lent even came and went, and although I thought about just doing something I’ve done in the past, none of those ideas felt right. Today, it dawned on me. “Ooooh. I know.”
At the beginning of January this year, instead of doing “resolutions” (because we all know how those turn out-WAH wah) I asked God to give me a word. One word that would guide and define my 2015. The word I heard in the quiet was “enough”. It was so so perfect. I started out the year meditating on that word, studying all the places it occurs in scripture, and letting it sink into me. It truly made me come alive. The truths God was speaking to me through it resounded so deeply: I am enough. Who I am is enough for God-I don’t need to be anyone else, or anything more than I am. God is enough. He has always, always been more than enough for me. There is no scarcity in God’s kingdom, only abundance. I refocused my perspective and reordered my life around what that word was doing in me. There is such a thing as having done enough, though for a mom of littles like me, it never ever feels like it. I purposed to keep my calendar and my daily routine aligned with what God was doing in me, to not allow the pressures and worries screaming at me to have a say anymore. But then, you know, life. Today it hit me-over the past few weeks I have allowed the resting in being, doing, having “enough” to be shoved out by, well, the lie of “never enough”. The “never enough” monster is relentless. You’ve never cleaned, read, discipled, prayed, cooked, primped, crafted (thank you, pinterest), vacuumed, studied, given enough. You’ve spent too much time doing this and not that, and then too much time on the that and now the this is mad and by the way everyone thinks you’re failing. It’s exhausting and ludicrous. Hateful monster. NO MORE.
So this Lenten season, I am doing only enough, and saying no to all the rest. Instead of giving up certain foods or media, I’m giving up trying to do it all and be it all. I’m going back to basics, to meditating on what has always been true, and being intentional to provide myself the space and time to rest in enough. This doesn’t exactly have specific parameters, but I know I will have to say no to some things, to leave some things undone. I started today. For example, I said no to cleaning my bathroom, even though it was on my “list”. So THERE, monster. TAKE THAT. You can go suck the grime off my dirty, dirty bathroom floor. Sorry, the monster has been hateful for so long sometimes I get a little hateful right back.
The perseverance comes in when I begin to feel the pressure, the temptation to take on just a little more. To squeeze more “good” things in that I know will start to crowd out the best things. As silly as it sounds, it will take diligence because this kind of living goes against my very broken bent to perform, produce, and achieve. It may hurt a little, but I know hope will bloom at the end.
Whatever your Lent is looking like this year, I pray you can persevere. No matter if life feels excruciating or demanding or soul-crushing, or, maybe just mind-numbing. May you persevere and experience the exuberant joy of God’s abundant life resurrected in you.