I know that “life” is odd for a Lenten discipline but isn’t that what all of this is about anyway? Our focus on spiritual disciplines during this season is not merely intended to instill us with a set of rules; rather, spiritual disciplines provide structure and support for our growing spiritual life. But, as I said, they are not just rules (and are certainly not just rules to get us through these 40 days leading up to Easter!). Spiritual disciplines, like Lent, provide the structure through which we can grow, much like those stakes that you are putting on your growing tomato plants or rose bushes. Hopefully, this Lenten journey is not merely one that gets us on the path on which our spiritual life is meant to be only to be allowed to be forgotten and grown over once the season ends. The whole idea is to instill a rule for our life, a pathway of sorts that best leads us to oneness with God.
We probably get hung up, though, when we limit our understanding of the “rule for life” to mere rules. Rules probably get a bad rap in our society, as if someone has laid down some arbitrary boundary to our already-structured life. Don’t think of it like that, though. I mean, rules are good when they don’t exist as their own end. They bring order to chaos. They bring cycles to confusion. They bring pathways to wilderness journeys. (And if a rule doesn’t do something along those lines, then, you’re right, it probably SHOULD be broken!)
Yesterday I was walking my dog. It was a lovely early evening, with a cool breeze that refreshed without chilling and both of us were enjoying ourselves. We were walking around our neighborhood enjoying all the new flowers and budding old ones, as if life had somehow just woken up. Because it was so nice, we took an extra long enjoyable walk. When we were about 4 1/2 blocks from my house, Maynard had to “do his thing”, if you know what I mean. We stopped so that he could relieve himself in peace and then (as we always do) we switched places so that his dutiful and well-trained owner could pick it up. While I was leaning over, I felt something weird on the end of the leash, as if all of a sudden I was holding emptiness. Now, let me tell you, this is NOT what a dog owner wants to feel when they are 4 1/2 blocks from home! I glanced over at Maynard just in time to see him do some sort of very intentional acrobatic movement as, with head down, he watched himself take his right leg and pull it through the harness and then underneath it and then repeat it with his left leg. I don’t know if he had been practicing this and thinking about this for awhile, but all I know is that the harness (with the leash still attached) was laying on the sidewalk with no dog attached to it. I panicked and reached for him, thinking that he would bolt into some game of canine hide and seek (which he’s done before). But he just stood there. It was as if the harness was still attached. Maybe he just wanted to show me how good he could be by himself. I don’t know.
Maybe that’s what Lent is supposed to do. It puts a very gentle harness on us as we go on our walk. And then, when it is time to break free, when our choice could be to bolt, joining in a sort of human-divine game of hide-n-seek, we stand still on the path, breathing in the breath of God and knowing, intuitively, where to go. A rule of life just gets us ready for that moment, that point of pure freedom when we intentionally choose God.
Yes, I put the harness back on the dog and we finished our walk. He didn’t seem to mind being put back in it; in fact, it was obvious he expected it. I don’t know what he was thinking. Maybe he just wanted to prove he could get out of it. Or maybe he just wanted to show me he could do it without it. I have to admit it, though, I will not give him the chance to try to show me again. God is much more trusting of us than I am. That is why God is God and I am not! But the point is that this journey of faith should not be taken lightly. It should be done as if our very life depended on it because it is, after all, our life.
So, for this Lenten season, commit yourself to a rule for life Where do you feel God calling you to stretch and grow? What kind of balance do you need in your life? What gives you life?
Grace and Peace,
Just a word of explanation for the week to come…I struggled with how to proceed this week without “jumping ahead” to the Passion or even to Palm Sunday before I’m really ready to do that. So, rather than, writing on the Lectionary passages for next Sunday, I’m going to step back a little in this walk. Tomorrow I will begin with the Anunciation, the announcement of the coming of God into the world and walk from there. I’ll take a quick walk through the steps of Jesus once again so that I can arrive in Jerusalem as the glorious Palm Sunday processional begins.
And ANOTHER word of explanation…I’ve had some of you who are in the “Google Group” that get emails every day mention that you have had comments but couldn’t comment “back” to me. That is correct! But I would LOVE to have your comments. Click on the “Dancing to God” link at the bottom of the email and that will get you into the blog. You can make a comment there and all of the blog readers can see it. I would LOVE for you to do that!