Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Give it Up

"A New Day"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

As I browsed through my news feed on Facebook this morning, I was especially struck by a rather plaintive post from one of my friends: "My life is so stuck in a rut, I need inspiration. Can anyone give me a word of encouragement?" So I began to think about what word of encouragement I might be able to offer to this Facebook friend, when I was suddenly struck by the fact that tomorrow is the beginning of the Lenten season on the Christian calendar.

When I was growing up I was always encouraged to "give something up" for Lent. Actually I was told that it was necessary for me to do this - we had to report what we were giving up for Lent to our classroom teacher.

In my case I usually gave up eating candy for the forty days of Lent - I actually didn't like candy all that much so it wasn't all that hard to give it up; however, I also wondered why it was even necessary to make these so-called Lenten sacrifices. Would giving up candy or sweets, or refraining from alcohol, or giving up eating meat somehow make God happy? 

This morning when thinking about my "stuck in a rut" friend,  I remembered those days in the past as I gave up stuff for Lent, when I was struck with the realization that the real purpose of Lent is to help people "get out of the rut" they may be stuck in on their spiritual journey. So maybe that's what we all might do for Lent- give up being stuck in a rut.  

I recall something the well-know psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck once wrote:

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur
when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.
For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort
that we are likely to step out of our ruts
and start searching for different ways 
or truer answers.
I find great wisdom in this.

My guess is that any single one of us (myself included) may at times have been able to join the lament of my Facebook friend this morning and cry out, "My life is so suck in a rut." In fact, in some sense there are always some areas of each of our lives where we may feel bogged down, perhaps dried up, unable to go deeper on our spiritual journey as we seek deeper truths and greater wisdom.  And yet, as painful as they may be, these bogged-down places indeed may be great gifts. When we are in a rut at least we know where to look to see how we can move on - we are "propelled by our discomfort to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways and deeper truths." 

It may be that alcohol or some other addiction is the rut in which we are stuck, so Lent may be a great time to give it up. It may be that a need to constantly worry keeps us stuck in a rut - always "spinning our wheels," expending useless energy over things that happened long ago or will never happen in the future, so give it up. It may be that a desire to accumulate more and more things has somehow bogged us down, so give it up. We all know the ruts we may be in- give them up for Lent. 

Lent is a season of Spring, a season for a new day on the spiritual path. 

You don't have to be a Christian or a believer to celebrate Lent. 

Listen to my weekly podcast: "Desert Wisdom"

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