Someone has said, “God always throws a better party.” I like that. To me it means when things don’t turn out the way I plan or I want them to, then I should hang on! God might be getting ready to throw a different kind of party, and a better one than I could ever come up with!
I think this concept is a timely one. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent—that time of of the year devoted to special prayer, fasting, and alms giving. One way of looking at Lent is to see it as God’s great Come as You Are Party. Let me explain.
During Lent we renew ourselves in prayer. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got on prayer was this: pray as you can, not as you can’t. In other words, start where you are. In order to do this we can take a few moments at the beginning of our prayer to reflect on where we are today. I sometimes ask myself, “So, Melannie, where are you today?” Then I pause and try to put into words where I am. Here are a few ways we might answer that question:
I’m exhausted…I’m worried about ___…I’m feeling great today…I’ve got too many things to do…I feel far from you, God…I feel close to you, Jesus…I’m lonely…I’m scared…I’m mad…I’m bored…I feel greatly blessed…I wish I were a better human being (a better nun, spouse, parent, friend)…I wish my faith was stronger…I feel restless…I feel young…I feel old…I feel blah…I don’t know where I am right now.
My answer to the question is where I start my prayer. If I’m worried about something, for example, I begin to talk to God about that. Chances are, it is something or someone I’ve been worried about before. Then I ask God to let me know if I can do anything about this particular worry. If I can’t, then I simply entrust that worry anew to God and I move on. If I’m mad, I reflect on what is causing my anger. Sometimes anger is the Spirit urging us to do something we are reluctant to do. (It’s often easier to stay mad than to take action—especially an action that is hard like forgiving someone, or letting go of something, or having a difficult conversation with someone.) If I feel greatly blessed, I sit with that for a few moments, thanking God for whatever those blessings might be.
It makes sense to come as you are to prayer. Why? Because prayer demands honesty. And if I can’t be honest with God, then with whom can I be? The problem is that sometimes, when it comes to praying, we feel inadequate. We think or say silly things like this: I’ll really start praying when I have more time…when I get my degree…when the kids are grown…when I’m holier…when I finally get my life in order. But God is calling us to prayer now. Every day. That’s what Lent reminds us. Come as you are—not as you wish you were.
Lent also reminds us that God speaks to us not only during our prayer time, but throughout our day in the people, events, news, and chance happenings that comprise our life. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to our life. In fact a good Lenten practice might be this: I will pay more attention to my life! I like what writer Frederick Buechner says about this: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the holy excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy hidden heart of it because, in the last analysis, all moments are key moments and life itself is a grace.”
Here is a song by David Crowder, who’s been described as a Christian musician, a bluegrass musician, and a folktonic musician. The song is called “Come as You Are.” I think this song is very appropriate for Lent. It says: “lay down your burdens, your shame, your hurt…wanderer, come home, you’re not too far…fall in his arms…come as you are” and the repeated line I like so much: “earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” I don’t know where you are today, but I hope you find something in this reflection and song that touches your heart for Lent.
Where are you today?
Does anything in this reflection or song speak to you?
Is there anything you’re doing for Lent that you’d be willing to share with us?
PS: Last week I enjoyed my time with the Sisters of the diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida. What a great group of women they are, doing marvelous things for God’s people in that beautiful part of God’s vineyard! Afterwards my sister, Mary Ann, and I spent a few days in Clearwater together. We went to the Tampa Zoo where we were delighted to meet two manatees (mother and child). We also had the privilege of petting some sting rays. We both marveled at how soft the sting rays were—as soft as a beagle puppy’s ears!