February 22, 2010
Right now, many folks of many denominations are in this season of Lent. Regardless of faith tradition, people are drawn to the idea of less self-indulgence and more self-improvement. I am no different. There are areas of my life that need work, and like any 4-year-old child, I am not going to address them until someone's foot is on my rear end. So, here we are in Lent and it's time to get moving. I made a few commitments for Lent, one of the standard 'no chocolate' variety (I did not, however, go crazy and give up chocolate. I have a baby to feed after all). But the other two are more of the "I am an adult now and it's time to go a smidge deeper" variety. After the holy spirit spoke straight through the words of a cyber-friend, I made a commitment to stop discussing a personal problem I have. I realized the trickle-down effect of my "venting" about a situation and realized it needs no more conversation for 40 days. God is the only person who can fix it, so He's really the only person I need to be "venting" to.
So, almost immediately, my commitment was tested. First test, I'd say I got an A-. It helped that it was the end of the day and I wanted to go to sleep. It's easier not to mouth off when you are exhausted. The next test came recently and it was much more difficult. I felt myself rationalizing 'well I'll just say this' 'and, that's all I can say' 'no, now I'm really finished.' I thought about these interactions as the day went on and realized that I was feeling a lot like a certain main character from the Garden of Eden. I won't say I fully bit into the apple of temptation, but I definitely tasted the skin. And oh how I understand how quickly you can go from smelling the apple, to tasting just a tiny bite, to knawing into it like an animal and throwing the core away. It's a slippery little slope we play on in the battle against wrong. Because, no matter how nicely or politically correct I put it, I was still wrong- still taking tiny bite after tiny tiny bite of that golden delicious.
Last night, as I was listening to the thunderstorms, wondering if I will ever sleep through the night again, I started thinking. I feel like we are in an era where self-acceptance and 'doing the best we can' are replacing the strive for excellence and victory. And while I am grateful for the seasons of life where I have learned to accept my limitations and my efforts, I also think we take it a little too far sometimes. We have yoga and mindfulness techniques and self-help aisles three miles long. We have friends who (very sweetly) justify our dumb mistakes and make us feel okay about being ridiculous. Again, I'm grateful for that and there is a time and a place for that. But under that mindset, my actions recently would be filed under 'good effort.' And you know what, I am 28-years-old and am a mama to an eight ounce heirloom tomato. Shouldn't I be striving for more than 'good effort?' I should not be afraid to call myself an ass and not settle for mediocrity. I have every tool necessary to achieve this pretty worthy Lenten goal. As my dad would have said growing up, if you can get a B-, you can get an A. The only thing stopping me is selfishness.
Again, there have been seasons and situations in my life when I have been waaay too hard on myself. I have denied myself grace and forgiveness, both freely and lovingly given by the person I believe most in. But I have to wonder if there is a time and place for grace, and a time and a place for discipline. (I imagine a crash course on this during the next 25 years of child-rearing.) I deserved a kick in the rear this weekend for going near the stinkin apple. I know the results. And while I will dust myself off and get back on track, I think it's okay to say to myself that that was a load of crap. I know better. I have the ability to do better. And even if I accept myself for my shortcomings, it doesn't mean I shouldn't be really trying to be better.
Just some lenten thoughts :)