I have always enjoyed liturgy and the beauty of being a part of a liturgical church. However, recently I have become overwhelmed by (and kind of obsessed with) the church year. I am appreciating it in a way that I have never appreciated it before. Maybe it is because I am appreciating life and faith in general in a way that I have never appreciated it. I don’t know the reason for it, but I’m very happy about it.
Ash Wednesday was yesterday. I love the timing of the Lord. Well, I love the timing of the Lord when things come together and I realize what He was doing all along or what He was teaching me. I’m trying to learn to love it in the midst of waiting or confusion, but I’m not there yet. The past month has been pretty intense for me. I have felt very distant from the Lord and emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. My parents like to use the imagery of a gas tank to talk about each of those aspects of life and I was running on empty with all four, and probably running on fumes on a couple.
I have started going to counseling to deal with anxiety, something I never realized I had. Through recent conversations with people I realized that the way I deal with situations and approach life is not “normal.” My body responds to stress in a very physical way as well. Returning to counseling is always exhausting, although admitting that help is needed may be the worst part. For me I found myself thinking “I’ve dealt with this for over 15 years and have done fine. So what’s the point of doing all of this work?”
Then I (or the Holy Spirit? Definitely the Holy Spirit, He’s a lot wiser than me) answered my question.
I don’t just want to deal with life.
I don’t just want to be fine.
I want to thrive.
I want to do the hard work now to treat my anxiety so that instead of consistently having my “gas tanks” at the middle to empty they can be full! Something I’m not sure has ever happened. I think that the anxiety and depression that I have been living with and not dealing with it has made it impossible to fully fill any of my tanks.
So what does this have to do with Ash Wednesday and Lent? Lent is a quiet, contemplative season. It’s a time of simplifying life, reflecting, growing, repenting, seeking Jesus. This is what I’m doing through counseling, prayer, and my own processing after each session. Jesus is already speaking and repeating himself through many different ways, which is just the coolest, confirming the things that He wants me to hear and learn.
Things that I desperately need to grasp at a heart level.
Things that will allow me to thrive.
To be honest I was rather grumpy about going to Ash Wednesday. After all I had VERY important things to do: two papers to write, an exam to study for, and the need for a full night of sleep. But then I found myself offering to come sing and agreeing to a reading. I’m so thankful I did. As soon as I sat down and read through these words before the service my heart soared, filling with a peace that I haven’t felt in so many months.
O God of peace,
who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved,
in quietness and confidence shall be our strength:
By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence,
where we may be still and know that you are God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Throughout the service my emotional and spiritual tanks began to fill. I was reminded of the importance of stopping. The importance of being. The importance of simplicity. The importance of dwelling, because God loves me and He thinks that I’m great. He wants relationship. He doesn’t care if I give up Facebook or chocolate or caffeine for lent. He wants me to give up things that prevent me from coming to Him. He wants me to take time to be with Him because He is all about relationship. My striving and my anxiety seem so silly when compared to His enormous love. I’m so excited to deal with it so that the truth of dwelling can truly permeate my life and my heart.
So for lent I’m giving up anxiety.
That doesn’t mean I’m not going to have moments of anxiousness. But through counseling, personal reflection, and prayer I want to be constantly laying my anxiety at the feet of Jesus and asking Him to take it off of my shoulders believing that soon I will be free from the powerful hold it has had on me. I’m done with it. I’m tired of it. I’m quite literally sick of it. I’m ready to stop striving and to start dwelling.
I’m ready to thrive.