Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Pause in Lent #1

I'm joining in with Floss and the girls [Edit: It's not all girls! My apologies to the men involved in this project!] for a Pause in Lent. For lots of thoughtful Lenten meditations, head over to Floss's site and enjoy.

I've started out this season of Lent thinking about so many things, I don't quite know where to begin. As I've mentioned, I'm turning fifty this year, and so one of the things I've been contemplating is what I want the next twenty-five years or so (if I'm given that) to look like. What do I want to be when I'm seventy-five and all grown up?

I want to be wiser than I am, and deeply spiritual. I think I've mentioned before that instead of saying, "I'm spiritual, not religious," I want to say, "I'm spiritual and religious." I like religion. I like saying prayers with my fellow saints and sinners (we're one and the same) and going through rituals. I like being part of the motley crew.

Now, I go through periods where I'd much rather read the Sunday papers than go to church, thank you very much. But not too long ago, I took to heart the adage "Eighty percent of success is showing up." I think this is true of church and religion and faith (and pretty much everything else). There will be days you don't believe in God or days the very idea of church bores you to tears (just ask Will), but it's still important you go.

First of all, it's heartening for the other saints and sinners, many of whom also woke up that morning not believing in God or bored to tears at the thought of church. One more ragamuffin dragging her rear end to the pew in spite of everything does everybody good.

(Really, I'm always moved by seeing people at church. Some days I think we all must be crazy, and other days I think we're the only sane ones around.)

Secondly, if you only show up sporadically, you don't get the good stuff--the community, the changing seasons, the being part of something bigger than you are. You don't get to be part of the Church, that good body working out God's plan for reconcilation and restoration. Don't you want to be in that number?

But I digress. Spiritual and religious. I want to be both. Have I mentioned I've been meditating? I'm terrible at it--I can go for about five seconds before my mind starts wandering--but it's so good for me to sit down in the middle of the day and breathe. When my mind wanders, I bring it back. I say, "here, now" like my thoughts are little puppies who are getting too close to the road.

Sometimes I meditate and try to see God. Doesn't that sound profound? I'm not really trying to see God. I'm really trying to see Archbishop Desmond Tutu, since I'm not sure what God looks like, but it wouldn't surprise me if He and Bishop Tutu share a strong resemblance.

The reason I'm envisioning Bishop Tutu in the role of God is because I've been thinking about  God's unconditional love. I know God loves me unconditionally, but I don't know what unconditional love actually feels like.

Do you? It's fun to try to imagine it. Imagine Bishop Tutu in the role of God seeing you and sheer joy bursting out from him. If you do it right, you'll cry. Honest.

I hope this doesn't sound too heretical or sacrilegious (I don't believe that Bishop Tutu is God, honest, though I do find him lovely). I just think the more I practice feeling loved unconditionally, the more loving I'll be, the less judgmental and icky. 

Here's the thing. Sometimes when you're almost fifty, you look at yourself in the mirror, and joy does not burst out of you. You forget to love yourself even though on an intellectual level you know God loves you and you are loveable. So you have to practice being loved for all your wrinkles and sagginess and the bad thing that's happening with your elbows. You have to imagine Bishop Tutu (in the role of God) telling you how beautiful your elbows are because they are His.

And that's what I'm thinking about. Being seventy-five with even more wrinkles and sagginess and feeling fully beloved. That is really my goal: To believe myself beloved by God and blessing everyone else because of it.



@gaz112 said...

Lovely words, but I must take issue with "Floss & the girls"!!!
Unless I've been declared an honorary girl for Lent?!

Nancy McCarroll said...

Well said. I'm sure your face and wrinkles, if you have any, are well loved by many. I especially loved my mothers hands as she grew older.

Take a look at this blogger who has been putting out daily posts. She is in her eighties and full of quirky thoughts and nice turns of phrasing:

Funny, I have never recommended a blog to someone prior to this.

Pom Pom said...

Hmmmmmm. We have a substantial fleet of fifty year olds at school this year and we keep talking about having an after-school gathering for them because we'd like to affirm them, tell them what we love about them, and assure them that the fifties really are fabulous.
You would really like Into the Silent Land, Frances.

Angela said...

Lovely post. When my cousins child was about 4, he saw Tutu on the TV [in a pink cassock - he should get some shoes like Will's] and announced "Mummy, God is dancing on the telly!" You are right, this guy lives so close to Jesus, his life totally reflects His glory. Would that we were all like that!
I valued your '80% is about showing up' comment. It is so good to have fellowship with the rest of my church, and 'be' church along with them on a Sunday. And it is a real encouragement to all the people who work so hard to make the Sunday Service meaningful too [worship team, PA team, flower arranger, welcome group, Sunday School staff....oh and the overworked Pastor too] And above all, I guess, it makes God happy when we drop by His house to tell Him we love Him. Lenten blessings [ps still praying for your Mum]

Heather said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts. Religion, spirituality, and the search for unconditional love and what that really means is such a personal thing. Out of all of my family and friends I sometimes feel like I am the only one in search for these things. The only person who even thinks of them. It's nice to know that others (like you, my bloggy friend) feel the same way. :)

GretchenJoanna said...

I so agree with your thoughts about being regular about church. I often think how very wonderful, that while none of us could make our rich services happen alone, partly because often we don't really feel like it ! when a good number of us get together anyway and do our part, we have something to offer to God in worship. And the "motley crew" - yes! That's what we are, all a bunch of needy people waiting on God so that He will show us that Love that He is, and make us loving. Well, you've got me going...
If you are reading this, it must be Wednesday now. So...I'll "see you" on Sunday. xxx

Gumbo Lily said...

This whole post makes me smile. I like thinking of God smiling on our wrinkles and saggy elbows and gray hair. He does love us, imperfect as we are. My grandkids love me this way.

The 50s are wonderful. There's a lot less pressure.

Thanks for this, Frances.

debbie bailey said...

I'm learning to accept my wrinkles and saggy skin although I do my part in slowing the process down. I eat clean, drink lots of water, do yoga, ride my bike, walk, laugh, pray, worship, and love life. What more could I want? Well.....I really wouldn't go back to any decade of my life if I could. The wisdom of aging beats a firmer body any day of the week!

Floss said...

I 'turned up' today at church and found myself thinking about Desmond Tutu - all thanks to you, I think! I also did think about the sermon, honest...

I really did appreciate this post - the evidence is that I've kept thinking about it all week. Thank you!

Kezzie said...

I love this!!! So important and so true! I always am glad that I have made it to church, even if tired! God uplifts one!x