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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Limping for Lent

Lent came upon us last week, and like everything else in this new job/country/language/life, it hit me unprepared.  The church calendar is not a big part of the kind of protestant evangelicalism in which I was raised, with the suspicion of all things too-high-churchy.  But I appreciate the yearly structures of celebration and remembrance, which seem to be part of how we're created, to need communal rhythm (as in all those Old Testament feasts).  Lent is a time of preparation, borrowing from the 40-day examples of Moses and Isaiah and Jesus, a withdrawal, a fast, a challenge, an approach to God.  Fasting serves to declare, experientially, that the things which seem to bring us life (food, drink, sleep, pleasures) are expendable because they are not real life.  Real life comes from God alone, and sometimes when we leave behind the props and are forced to fall upon Him, we become more aware of that reality.

So Ash Wednesday came, and went.  I found a booklet I bought at Wheaton during our Chicago visit:  A Clean Heart Create In Me, Daily Lenten Reflections from C.S. Lewis.  A verse, a thought, a prayer.  And that's about all I did, while I read about friends embarking on vegan diets, or writing challenging blog posts about sacrificial service.  Lent light.  Lent for the weak, the just-coping. Lent while still eating chocolate, and it seems pretty wimpy. Surely I could do more to generate a sense of dependence upon God.

Then I got to the third reading:
Fasting is a different experience from missing your dinner by accident or through poverty . Fasting asserts the will against the appetite--the reward being self-mastery and the danger pride . .  

Ahh, pride.  That is the reason I feel uncomfortable not doing something bigger for lent.  And then I realized, I am fasting from something this lent.  I'm fasting from feeling on top of the game; I'm giving up competence for lent.  Because these two months at Kijabe have been ones of NOT doing a lot of things well.  Friday the resident in the ICU asked me to help her get an IV in a child, and I failed, and had to call in one of my more experienced peers.  On rounds I suggested a change in therapy that someone else questioned, and then I saw they were right, my idea would have been harmful.  At about midnight last night I was called in for a blue, floppy, not-even-really-gasping baby slimy with meconium, and when I took too long trying to intubate, the anesthesia nurse jumped in and took over, and did a great job.  It seems like every day, every few hours, I'm confronted with something I should know but don't, someone expecting me to be competent in something that I've long forgotten.  I mean to study my Swahili, but there never seems to be the right time, while Scott organizes his notes and comes out with great phrases I just listen.  I barely get meals together, and I have lapsed in lots of communication.

After we were here a few weeks, climbing up and down these steep hillside paths, I got a pulled/strained muscle in my hip which made me limp, and prevented exercise for a couple of weeks.  It is now resolving, but at the time it was rather painful and inconvenient.  It did remind me, however, of Jacob's wrestle.  He had a similar injury, and walked with a limp ever after.  

Encounters with God are like that, sometimes.  Damaging to competence and strength, leaving us wounded, reduced.  This year I guess I don't need to buckle down and find a nearly-impossible challenge to generate a sense of unworthiness, the reality of that is close at hand.  

For this lent I'm limping, towards grace.  Towards Good Friday, good news for the poor in spirit.  Towards Easter Sunday, resurrection making new strained hip muscles and marginal medical abilities, resurrection reviving smeary choking babies and damaged relationships.  Lent, a valley in the shadow, approaching the light of the table, even if the gait is a limp.


Christy Joy said...

You might enjoy this:

Suzanne said...

From one fellow "limper" to another, thank you so much for this post. I really needed it. Bless you.