Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Fresh Start Season: Lent 2010

Hello beloveds,

It's my favorite time of year. I know I'm a freak, but I actually like Lent and Easter more than I like Christmas. I think it's the time my heart is softest, and I'm most pliable in God's hand. This season it couldn't have come soon enough.

I know I practically disappeared, but you would not believe the head trips I've been on. First of all, at the end of January I started some new medications, and wowza, one of them was NOT good for me. It made me feel drunk, and then I got a little twitchy. After that the bottom fell out of my brain, and I found myself free-falling into a wicked depression. All of this happened as I sequestered myself inside the house to finish a novel. Every comforting habit of destruction I thought I'd let go of returned, and I felt like a total failure, but total failure isn't the worst place to be, children of God. Lying to yourself about being a total failure is, or it's darned close.

I have to be honest. No, seriously, I HAVE TO BE HONEST, because I'd become quite the pious liar when it came to my worst behavior. My first mistake was that I'd begun to think that I could do kick my compulsive eating addiction on my own! "Look at me," I thought. "I'm doing my thing!"  I'd forgotten what had driven me to my knees in the first place: the fact that I could not beat it on my own. For years I've stuffed myself instead of grieved my losses, numbing my pain with food. It actually changed my brain pathways. It's pretty clear to me now that it's a whole lot easier for me to engage in my addiction than to eat like a normal person. And I, this woman who has for so many years called myself a ragamuffin--poor in spirit--began to believe I had this all by myself (read as, I didn't need God's help), just because I'd taken to walking and cutting sugar. Around the third week of my journey, my brain promptly reminded me that it was not interested in change, and cut it out already! And I folded like my mama's clothesline-dried laundry.

I had to take it back to the first step of twelve, lovies: I admitted that I was powerless, once again. The second step came right after: I came to believe a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. Lord, have mercy, I had truly become insane again, but having gotten that far in the steps, it was easy to go to the next one, and make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God.

This is the one that isn't easy to do, so I'm going to hang out there for a bit. Sounds like Lent to me!  It's become clear to me that in some notable ways I just don't want God in control. There are sins I have that--make no mistake about it--I love, and apparently I've become adept--downright masterful! at acting like they aren't there. If I can pretend they don't exist, I don't have to think that God wants me to surrender them, and that my refusal to do so is hardhearted and stiff-necked. These are the things I'm thinking of as I began this holy time. Trust me, sistah girl will be going to confession today.

Last year my friend Steve Laube sent me a book by a writer I love, Emilie Griffin. It's called, Small Surrenders: A Lenten Journey. The cover says, "Lent is our chance for a fresh start, a new page. We consciously let down our defenses against the grace of God."

That's what my compulsive eating is, a defense, and now it keeps me from the grace God wants to give me, and it blocks my freedom. Once upon a time it protected me from the dangerous predator I lived with whose own pathology made a misery of my life. I ate ravenously, hoarded food, lied about food, and even threw up the massive portions I stuffed down because it wasn't safe for me to eat normally. This is what God is saying to me: "You can give this to me now."Giving such a deeply ingrained defense to him isn't a one time event. It will be a constant turning of my will over to him. I am hoping I can get out of my own way, and allow myself the blessing of a helpless, infantile dependence on the One who really is safe for me. Because I am powerless, like, totally, I'm not even going to try to attempt anything heroic for Lent. I like what Griffin says, which inspires the title of this magnificent devotional, "Lent is a time when we deepen our faith in a journey not of grand gestures, but of small surrenders." Amen to that.

So, I am not really giving up anything other than sugar. It is sacrificial now, as opposed to several weeks ago when I started this journey, because sugar is my crack, lovies, and in my body it's just as destructive as any street drug. Because it's hardest for me to give up and be consistent about, I'm offering it to God as often as I need to, in a series of small surrenders. I'm also giving up the enormous portions sizes I've come to depend on, instead having three portioned controlled meals a day, and two snacks--and I do mean snacks: small ones, rather than small meals between meals--that too is a mind game! This way will help regulate my wonky blood sugar. The only day I will not eat this way is today, Ash Wednesday, and on every Friday, when I will fast and abstain from meat. This (except for the fasting) is called clean eating. I should have chosen an eating plan when I first started this journey, but I didn't realize how dishonest I was about my love for food and my lack of real desire to release it.  Lord, have mercy.

As I continued on this journey of changing my life, I realized that it is far more a journey into the arms of God than anything else. Everything I read about in overeaters anonymous led me back to him, and every step of the twelve was a beckoning--an urging to return to God--revealing my true hungers, even those I didn't want to see. So more than anything else, this Lent is about what I'm giving to God, not what I'm giving up. So yes, I'm giving myself to God, in the small most meaningful ways.  A few years ago, during one of my first Lenten seasons, I heard a wise man say, "God is more important than food." Ain't that the truth? I want that to be a reality in my life, and stop my manipulations. It's time to get real.

What about you, lovies? What are your Lenten surrenders about this year?

mair-francis

13 comments:

K said...

Brilliant post. I'm new to your blog. Please do keep writing...it's inspiring. I never knew there were Christians out there that struggled with things like these. I thought it was just me and that something was wrong with me. God bless U!!

MaryAnn M said...

i grew up Catholic and there is something beautiful about the Lenten season that i miss now.
i LOVE Christmas...but perhaps for the wrong reasons...i dunno..but it carries the social aspect and parties and lights and gifts and sharing.
Lenten journeys are more inner...quiet...soulful...just myself and God, being honest with each other, or me being honest with the both of us since he cant be dishonest, ever.

with this season comes Spring..and renewed love and life.
i am looking forward to the renewed Love and Life within and overflowing.

glad you are posting again.

~Leslie said...

I like the idea of a "Fresh Start." I've read on a couple other blogs about "giving to God" instead of "giving up." I like this perspective, it seems less repressive and restrictive. It also makes for a more positive experience. Thanks for sharing from your life, as always!

Welcome back, btw. Great to see your face and read your words!

xoxo!!

Kay Day said...

I took some friends out of town today to the Anglican church I used to attend for Ash Wednesday service. Such a meaningful time.
I've become addicted to FB. Constantly checking to see who has commented on my most recent clever quip or deep insight.
It's approval addition really. So, I'm off FB for 40 days.
I will miss chatting with you occasionally and seeing your updates.
I'll be reading here though, and posting on my blog. I'll also do e-mail and AIM.
This is only my third year of Lent. We Baptists didn't think much of these kind of things! LOL
I love what you said in your blog. Surrender is so hard.
And the part about confronting sins that we hide even from ourselves--powerful.

Rehoboth said...

I was surprised to find someone else who loves Lent better than Christmas. Christmas is tough for me in so many ways. Lent is where I learn how to lay it down and let Jesus take care of it for me.

One thing I'm giving to Jesus is my "fun" reading time just before I go to sleep. I'm giving that time to Jesus by meditating in the Psalms until I get sleepy. That is what He asked me for, I think.

He also asked me to cut back my time on Facebook, and to spend the time in His presence, and in being present for the people He has given to me.

How can I say no to that?

Love you, mair, for your transparency, and honesty. May Jesus truly be enough as you offer the Bread of Life your eating habits.

Susan

renee said...

much love. I understand much of your experience with food. I, too, have (am) struggled/ing.

I also feel similarly about your love for lent/easter over christmas. it IS the redemption season, and we're redemption girls, eh?

I am giving up feeling guilty for Lent this year. I am also writing a daily 5 post of gratitude. ...and some other things, too.

I love that even though I never grew up in the liturgical tradition (though I decided to be Episcopalian for a bunch of years), I can honour the days and the celebrations and the saints, too.

Caldonia Sun said...

I'm glad you are posting during this Lenten season.

ragamuffin diva said...

Hello, mah babies! And a special hello to you, K. Welcome to my little home in cyberspace. Do come again.

I'm so happy to see everyone. I pray that we journey together through this holy season. Many blessings!

GailNHB said...

I am working my way through Show Me The Way. I have used this book since 2002 - and am stunned by the truth of it and the relevance of it every year. Small surrenders... I like that.

One thing I am hoping to give up for Lent this year is my bid for perfection, for never messing up, for always being good. I am going to stop acting as though What I Choose To Do is what makes God love me. Or What I Choose Not To Do. I'm working on letting go of my own self-defined rules for righteous living and get a grip on God's amazing grace.

That and a few other things that I have buried in my journal and even deeper in my heart.

ragamuffin diva said...

Sounds like you're off to a grand start, Gail. Go!

Grams said...

Treva said: Oh, your are the Lovie! You said it all and said it perfectly.Just this morn, as I was sitting in the bathroom, I was going round and round with God about this gluttony that I have cemented into my life for so many years and how was it to get jack hammered out.
I am with you in this battle!

ragamuffin diva said...

May God give you abundant peace, Treva.

Anonymous said...

Lent: Springtime of the Soul!
I began abstaining from flour& sugar on Feb 15th with lent as the catalyst. It isn't only a lenten thing. Lent is meant to change me...make me new. Love your insights, I look forward to reading future blogs.
Lent is a beautiful time to reflect Jesus with more purity and truth and become more intimate with Him while loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.
God bless you