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.