writing Lent from the inside out

I've realized recently that I write from the inside out.  

I start with whatever feelings I have.  

I accept those feelings as worth exploring.  Instead of denying my feelings and pushing them away, I'm saying, "Hey, anger, sadness, anxiety--thanks for the heads-up!  Something is indeed bugging me.  Let me work on that and get back with you.  Keep me posted if anything else surfaces."

I then commence poking around with words, until I uncover the words that fit the feelings.

Once I have words, I can work on whatever the feelings were all about.

When it comes to writing, this is not an efficient method, let me tell you.  This is not how they taught me to do it in school.  (Apologies to all my English/Creative Writing professors.  You tried.  I know you tried.)

It is, however, the method that is truest to my Self.  And I've realized that if I'm going to speak about the true, deep things of Love, then I've got to work in a way that honors the true, deep things that Love created me to be.  

I can't talk to you about receiving Love, and exercising the voice God individually gave you, without receiving Love into myself and learning to exercise the voice God individually gave me.  

I've had to accept that this is who I am, and this is how I work:  inside out, feelings first.  

It's not a curse like I used to think.  

It's a gift.

 Me, in the center of the labyrinth, The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, NM

Me, in the center of the labyrinth, The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, NM

The Lent series starts next week.  And the Lent series started with feelings.

Itchy, twitchy feelings.

I've wanted to do a Lent series for a long time.  Ever since I did the Advent series that turned into a devotional book, I've thought it would be really cool to have a Lent devotional book, too.  Also, a couple of readers thought this would be a fun thing and wrote to tell me so.

But Advent is 25-26 days.  Lent is 40.  40 is a lot.  

So I was intimidated by that big number, and afraid I would fail.  (Intimidated and afraid:  feelings.)

Then I had another feeling about Lent.  I'm scared of the popular practice of Lent.  (Scared: feeling.)

Here's why:  the popular practice of Lent seems to be all about giving things up, and trying hard.

Y'all know how I feel about trying hard:  I hate it, because it almost killed me.  

TRYING HARD IS A DEATH TRAP!  (Big, big feelings.)  

I was telling Andy all about this, and I said, "I don't understand how we can try hard for 40 days and then celebrate Easter, which is all about IT IS FINISHED!  None of this should be about trying hard!  And how does giving up Diet Coke matter anyway?!  I did that last month all by myself!  I don't need Lent for that!"  

(There were lots more capital letters when I said this to Andy.)

And then Andy said this.

(So smart, this boy.)

He said, "I think the point of giving things up during Lent isn't about trying hard and maybe failing.  I think it's so that whenever you'd put sugar in your tea or grab a Coke, you think about Jesus instead."

And there was silence in the bubble bath for a good long while.

And I said, "Dang, you're good."  (Feeling: admiration.)

****

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter,“What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”  Matthew 26:36-46

****

As a therapist, a huge part of my job is bearing witness to and honoring the grief of others.  And yet, I don't think I have done much of that with Jesus.  

Most of the time, with Jesus, I'm going, "Help me!  Feed me!  Make me well!"

And he does.

But having a reciprocal relationship with Jesus where I bear witness to his grief, his pain?

That is something I haven't practiced much of.  I wonder what would happen if I did.

And so this Lenten season, I'd like to try and watch with Jesus for just a little bit, using the Seven Last Words that he spoke from the Cross.  

  • "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."  (Luke 23:34)
  • "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise."  (Luke 23:43)
  • "Woman, behold your son.  Son, behold your mother."  (John 19:26-27)
  • "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
  • "I thirst."  (John 19:28)
  • "It is finished."  (John 19:29-30)
  • "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."  (Luke 23:46)

****

I have no expectation or intention of writing every day for 40 days, by the way.  I'm committing to a post in this series each Monday, February 16-March 30.  Other posts may happen as well, and I hope that they do!  But I'm writing from the inside out.  We're just going to follow the feelings and see where they lead.

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