4/01/2011

lent: a thin place

Each year for Lent I give up the thing that I use as a false comforter. When I need rest and replenishment and a bit of peace I often go to things that offer a quick boost of energy or happiness (caffeine, Internet, TV), but don't really provide the nourishment my soul requires.

I know that my soul needs time outdoors in nature. I know that my soul requires time in reading and silent contemplation. I know that my soul needs time to create and sew and write and draw and build and dream meandery dreams. My body doesn't need tons of sugar, salt, and caffeine. What it needs is more water and more sleep and more exercise. It needs a long, hot bath with bubble bath and lotion. And my body needs my soul to get its needs met.

I often burn the candle at both ends. I often spend all my energy taking care of others and have none left for me. I have to discipline myself to say "No." To take sabbath. To make margins of quiet and rest and replenishment in my life. But this takes work. Setting aside time to rest and create and feed my soul takes effort. It is much easier, when I am tired, to go for coffee and web comics and a hundred or so blogs and a million random articles about things I don't really care about, or lose myself in hours of television. And then, of course, I spend to much time, not really resting and must catch up on all my responsibilities.

I've been pondering this quote throughout Lent this year: "A pail with a pinhole loses as much as the pail pushed right over. A whole life can be lost in minutes wasted, small moments missed." ~ Ann Voskamp

Its not that coffee, Internet, and television are bad, or even bad for me. I just need to be aware of where I am getting my "rest." And if I truly feel rested after spending time in that activity. Another Ann quote: "Habitual escapism can escape His holy ends." Lent I make myself get true rest, because I don't allow myself to escape into my caffeine and Internet comforters. I make myself rest for reals.

And I give myself permission to go easy on all the "to dos" while I'm resting. Spending time reading on the Internet is the pail with the pinhole, I wake up and the day is gone, empty. Truly restful activities feel like I'm knocking the pail over, but really, I'm filling it.

Yes, the laundry must be done and the ironing and the shopping. And we must take the trash out and change the filters and clean the carpets. There are bills to pay and papers to file and taxes and emails and schedules and we can't possibly fit it all in.

But on a Sunday afternoon, the important thing is to hold hands with my Beloved and walk in the woods. To breathe deep the sweet, spring air after a night of rain. To stop and close my eyes and listen to the wind rustling through the branches overhead. To open them again and drink in the verdant grass and vibrant wildflowers and the lush tangle of undergrowth below. To step silently along empty paths, anticipating whatever may come from this "thin place."

I want all of Lent to feel a thin place. So, I turn off my computer. I want my Internet silence this month to awaken my other senses so I may take in the things that truly replenish my soul. The fragrance of spring flowers, the shaft of light that lands on the kitchen table, its warmth on my skin. Less time at the computer means more time with my hands in the bread dough or in the dirt or in paint or a hundred other projects I've piled up gathering dust, saying "I have no time." I want to listen. To rain running out the gutters, to the tick of the clock, the click of the needles, the thrum of the sewing machine, the birds, the dogs, the wind through the newly leafing trees...

I've missed a tsunami and its fallout, the bombing of Libya, and the death of a movie star, so far. But that's ok. I'm going to continue deeper into this quiet and look for things I would have missed if I'd spent all those hours on facebook and falling through Internet rabbit holes. For now, I am content to learn things second hand. For this season, I am thankful for this empty path in a quiet wood. "Further up and further in!"

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