a saint, a stray, & starting over.

We mused together once (coffee cups cooling between us, or road stretched ahead—-the soul-talks blur), that to miss someone, to say it out loud, might be the most vulnerable thing.

What did we say? It means–

Your presence means something to me. Something important. You’re gone, and I feel that.

We giggled over our own stilted definition, but hmmming along knowing that saying so points to our chipped paint.

“I miss you,” means I’m missing something. It means admitting that I am somehow without.

I wrote out those words slow and scripty in a letter to a friend. I’m not sure I knew how much I meant it, how much like an eggshell edge it made me feel. That was almost a week ago, and I’ve been finding fragile pieces everywhere, in everything, since then. I’m anticipating upheaval, the turnover, the emptiness clothed in fulness of life that’s coming in four months when I move away.

Four months–a lifetime, a breath. I’m feeling it already. I mourn loss too soon or too late.

I think I’m starting to miss people while they are standing in front of me–scraping food off the plate, or handing me the phone–close enough to touch, to hold.

But I think, too, I’m starting to miss parts of myself.

—————————–

I think I’ve been missing God for a while now, and I realized the other day when I was doing the dishes that I’m not quite sure if or when we said goodbye. 

Maybe this is the axle.

Maybe I’m at the wall (to quote Lauren Winner for the thousandth time), but mostly I’m pretty sure I’m running around trying to make noise in every other room of the house, refusing to slow down enough to acknowledge it’s there.

To slow down enough to say, I’m without.

——————————-

I ask, all frustration and self-chastising,

Why can’t I just get over this?

Why can’t I stop poking pouty sticks around in the dirt, like a child?

It’s Eastertide–why can’t I stand upright like the Resurrected?

She stops me, firmly,

This isn’t nothing. This is real.

I have this conversation again with another on the phone–the same why-can’t-I-tear-this-out-of-myself.

She tells me, soft,

Honey. You’re leaving your Camelot. You’re going this alone. It’s okay to feel it.

——————————-

The head-nod was important for calling out some of the shadows, the rattling echoes: to point and say, “I see it too, I hear it too.”

The anxiety, the dark is not made up.

And then the knowing that whispers,

but you have to do the work of starting over, love. Even if you start over every day.

These things do come without invitation, like a mean stray cat; but there’s a difference between watching it lurk on your stoop and letting it in the front door, feeding it your best.

I’ve learned that acedia, the restless-sadness-heaviness-sluggishness that comes to visit mind-body-spirit is edged out in the ways that don’t seem brave, or even faithful–like small acts of love, like listening, like seeking the things that once taught grace.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes that there are two paths for facing it, the sorrow in particular. The first we expect from the cerebral Doctor–we overcome the vice through grace with caritas, with virtue, with prayer, with perspective on our own troubles. Good counsel, if hard to grasp at times.

The second is more surprising–

A good night of sleep. A warm bath. A glass of wine.

Before I even take his advice, it catches in my throat.

It sounds silly, but here the saint points me to the Incarnated God, closer than my skin.

Bodily remedies for us as embodied souls, ensouled bodies.

Surely, He is not far from any one of us.

—————————-

The thing is, there aren’t any formulas, not really. We simply begin the work of starting over. Starting over every day.

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this online thing [or why i am still here, with you].

We spread a leopard-print blanket across the table for the still-life art project Erica will teach the kids from the local mission later that afternoon. She asks me about the pinched forehead, what is wrong.

Oh, the internet, I say, dropping buzzwords from Impromptu Sex Week and the Superbowl Beyoncé Flare-up and so on. I’m not explaining well, I’m fumbling and frustrated and can’t decide how I feel about anything. My gut-reactions don’t translate to formulated thoughts until much later and sometimes I want the noise, inside and outside, to just stop.

You know, you don’t have to do this, she says, her eyes all honesty and looking to the deep like always.

The afternoon sun flecks through high windows above a wall with hand-me-down paint onto hand-me-down chairs that sit in this room that was handed down to Erica to make a bit of beauty and a bit of difference in a city whose poverty and violence is downright ugly and shocking. The context of her words isn’t lost on me.

I am standing in the middle of as-real-as-it-gets Waco, talking about what to most is only a virtual reality.

And I know what she means, at the heart of it–there is a danger in spending your life and love online completely. And maybe there is a temptation to construct an online reading and writing life as a venue to simply “make a lovely little speech to yourself,” as a beloved professor once quoted.

This I understand, struggle with some days. Do I talk a good talk and trample my neighbor? If I debate and spin poetry and retweet and  and have not love, caritas, agape, the kind of love that acts and habits and moves and shakes: sharing blessedness and wills the Good to my neighbor (both on- and offline), then I am only a gong or a cymbal; I am nothing, I gain nothing.

You don’t have to do this.

This online thing. I know.

—————————————————————–

But I do.

Because first of all, this isn’t virtual reality, a veneer, pontificating. The stuff I read and the stuff I hope to be writing is the stuff that composes your real life and mine, and it matters.

It matters.

Feminism, spiritual practices, abuse, relationships, parenting, growing up, sexual ethics, justice, racism, prayer and all of it. All of it affects and informs the way I live and love in that caritasagape way. It is the perhaps the matter itself of that living and loving.

Because here is another beautiful and difficult thing about this online business:

we come with our bad and good rhetoric as well as our bad and good stories;

with our tempers and with our grace;

with our education and experience and sometimes without it;

with numbered lists and paragraphs and randomly bolded words;

we come with our best theology and our deepest hang-ups;

with our passion and with our reason;

with typos and flare-ups and words we didn’t mean;

with a dash of sacred profanity and the temptation to make the sacred profane;

with our heresy and our holiness;

with our arbitrary semi-colons and run-on sentences like this one.

It’s kindof a mess but isn’t that how life is?

So that means it takes a bit of bravery to navigate these waters at times for one reason or another, and I’m not the only one who thinks about giving it up sometimes. But I guess I’ll just say I’m not altogether afraid to get my heart a little too involved with my patience, my prayers, my compass and the stars to guide me.

Because like I said, these things matter, and with the humility, tenderness, care, and whole-hearted truth-seeking I have witnessed in my blogroll, I think these things can matter and manifest in a holy and faithful way, to lead us to the good work that needs to be done.

On- and offline.

I’ve seen a bit of magic and a lot of Church here, and I want to join the effort to pass the peace with the person sitting in this pixelated pew with me.

—————————————————————–

when it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces.

–Beasts of the Southern Wild

The rest of the story is that I keep reading you people because there’s a whole mess of URLs  undeniably threaded into this growth-history and future of mine and a big part of why I brush my teeth every morning next to the same God.

[and sometimes, every once in a while, online friends are real friends, too.]

So, cheers, Deeper Story and Prodigal and She Loves and Sarah and Suzannah and Micha and Rachel and Emily M. and Emily W. and Joy  and Alise and Alece and Nish and Dianna and Leigh and Seth and Amber and Hilary  and Margaret and Annie and Amy and Elora  and Addie and Elizabeth and Alyssa and Shaney and Kiefer and of course Preston and the other lovely, ragged, brave, hollering, gentle, hella smart, pastoral, preachy, comforting ones that I haven’t named or known yet.

Thank you and keep going–keep changing my life.

Thy, will be done.

On Friday, I send sixty-one emails to strangers beginning with the line,

we regret to inform you

ending with

we wish you well in your academic pursuits.

I chew my fingernail to the quick, watching all sixty-one blink into my ‘sent’ folder on the little PC screen. A grad student walks in to check the mail, making odd noises as he enters. The copy machine is is out of staples, and insists on telling me so.

I try not to cry.

———————-

My friend Erica doesn’t tell people, not even close friends, about works-in-progress. She believes she is less likely to labor toward her goals if she gets the immediate relief of divulging her plans.

I am not good at following this line of action, but there are a lot of things Erica wins at.

I have told a number of people, even on this little corner of the internet, that I have applied to grad school.

But only one.

One school, one fragile egg in the basket.

—————————-

A year ago, around this time, I received a “we regret to inform you” email.

Three hours later, the guys and I were toasting what were probably French 75s in what was probably the incorrect glassware, and no bitters. (Waco, we sometimes asked too much of her.)

I told them I knew I applied for all the wrong reasons as soon as I read that line–that I wanted the two-year security, that I wanted to get out of Texas, and even maybe that I wanted it to at least sound like I was saving the world.

We were a little floundering together that night–one between seminary and a question mark, the other still waiting to hear on St. Andrews. We toasted to Plan Bs, some absurd, some not-so. We kept each other in mind.

Now, they’re both in the middle of being brilliant in their respective programs.

And I’m in the waiting place again.

I’m busy-making, two jobs and two classes and too much extroversion. When I’m still, the panic. The blank drawn at plan B. The shaky Thy will be done.

Sometimes in church I think about that still, I think maybe that is what we should be praying for, not just that God’s will be done, but that everything that is God’s everything that is His, everything that is Thy, will be done. Yours be done, I chant in my head. Yours yours yours. Everything that is Yours.

The irony that this, from Lauren Winner, floats across my head in this time, hits me later–it’s her school I’ve applied to, her book that even put it on my radar.

One year ago.

——————————

Annie Barnett writes a small but jam-packed thing that wrecks me:

In this present moment.

I am due to find out about my admission and funding for this graduate program at the end of February, possibly the second week of Lent. Soon, somewhat.

That’s my limited sight, for now. But really, it all is, isn’t it?

Now we see through a glass darkly…

Our professor reminds us again in a class on St. Thomas Aquinas and caritas that the difference in our sight and God’s, in our knowing and His, is not even just distance and time, but in manner and mode. We know through lists and steps and bits and pieces and even stories–discursion. But He knows in full one fell swoop, in a breath, by absorption, intuition–and even these comparisons are small heresies. 

Our sight is all limitation, on this side of things.

So I find myself in another Advent in the middle of Epiphany, and I am praying for the showing-forth of Christ, for ears to hear Him, for eyes to see Him, however deaf and blind I may be.

For even now, even in the fear, there are doves descending and water turned to wine.

I want to wait well. Pockets emptied of Plans A-Z.

I pray to be faithful even if disappointment, even if the we regret to inform you.

—————————

I read a prayer written by a woman centuries ago, and I know it is mine:

For I am His. O then take care of my Soul and Body, for both are thine. Conserve, increase, and nourish all the good purposes thou hast inspir’d into me, for they are also thine.

I am all thine, save me; my Understanding is thine, illuminate it; my Will is thine, govern it; my Memory is thine, fill it; my Life is thine, preserve it; my Friends are thine, bless them, and secure them all to thy self, for all is thine.

Amen.

Thine, Thine, Thine.

Yours Yours Yours.

Amen.

twenty-twelve debrief: part one.

 debrief (v).

to comb over the events within a given amount of time (i.e. a day, a year, a singular social event.) to locate the highlights, the dark moments, the shoulda-woulda-couldas, the parts that are already a part of what is unmistakably you. distinct from a crippling nostalgia. to cup the past in your hands and breathe. in. everything. [a term usually used by Erica and me; (among other primarily female counterparts? theory untested)]

This year started as the last one ended–with extremely strong painkillers, prescribed for tooth pain that started Christmas Eve.

Sexy, huh?

I only mention it because the work I had done on my teeth spanning the next four months or so required my driving from Waco to Dallas every other weekend, meaning that I spent more time at home my last semester of college than any other. With my family now (and probably forever) living another time zone away, I’m glad I got some good weekends in with my family, especially during some of our most uncertain months as a family.

[One such weekend, I devoured Lauren Winner’s Still on iBooks as soon as it was released, in a half-Novocained stupor. I fangirled all over her google search, and found out she had just been appointed as a professor at Duke Divinity School.  I spent hours on their website, but was too drugged or too much in denial to give credence to anything more than a passing curiosity. ]

Sometime in January, I was not selected to join the Teach for America crew. [You get news like this via email these days, so you’re stuck wherever you are receiving life-altering pieces of information.] I was in public, but alone. Upon reading the first line of “we’re sorry, but…” I realized that I hadn’t applied with the purest of intentions. I do have a passion for the types of communities TFA serves. I do think I would do well in them. (And have.) But the two-year security blanket of the program and the prospect of picking up and leaving for an adventure muffled out everything else that told me this wasn’t it. With the email staring back at me, and my phone buzzing with consolatory text messages, I breathed a feeble, panicked thanks. And hoped that something would happen to get me out of Waco. 

I spent most of my last semester in yoga pants. As soon as I try to defend myself by citing my yoga class, I’ll admit to you that it was a once-a-week audit. But then, Preston and I decided to take a few other easy classes to make this last semester ohso easy, too. Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Ceramics I almost kicked our non-art-major butts with hours out-of-class coiling, and maybe there was a 11 pm run to the library to practice knot-tying for Backpacking and Camping during the most stressful week of the semester. What. But I think in making we learned about our Maker, and some days the arm-waving treks across campus and the obnoxiously loud discussions of saints and liturgy flecked with clay are the things I absolutely miss the most about this slice of my past life.

[OK. And impromptu taco runs. And Wednesday wine at twilight and midnight grocery trips for bread with the guys.  There were also the hard nights: drives into the darkness and sad margarita toasts and angry orders of chips and salsa. We each took turns with one another, really. I oddly miss these, too. The strange mosaic.]

And then there was Great Texts capstone class. Nothing brought our weird little group of majors closer to tears or to laughter (or together) quicker than Brooks 170 at 9:30 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Just imagine a tiny group of smart-asses at the end of their academic rope, paired with the most infuriatingly even-tempered, pastoral professor with a penchant for correcting our sloppy word choice and logical failures. Yup. But sometimes there were doughnuts, always there was coffee and a lot of camaraderie and grace. These things make a difference. I think that small room and small group of people will be with me always. I’m not sure I can do it justice.

[I still wore yoga pants on those days. With no excuse. Senioritis, yes. Semester-long existential crisis? Also yes.]

And then there was that one day you might already know about. A back-porch intimation that I was to stay in Waco for the next year. It was something of an answer, yes, but I kept wearing yoga pants 24/7. Even to a job interview.

[I needed intervention.]

Preston found out he got into St. Andrews an ocean away. I cried.

Erica decided to stay in Waco longer, too. I cried.

I kept counting the staying friends and the leaving friends. More irrational tears.

More days without real pants.

To be continued. Read part two here.

Depressing stuff, huh? I promise it wasn’t as dark as all that. I’ll fill in more later, but as this recap is getting longer than I expected, this is as good a place to stop as any. 

Also, do you use the word ‘debrief’ as I have ‘defined’ it above?

absorption.

It’s Saturday and raining–the first true Sabbath I’ve had for a while. With a few jobs, a few friends, and a few classes I’ve picked up, It’s been more than  little difficult to rest, to just be still.

[I feel like this is something we are always saying these days, but it might be a while before it stops being true, before our desperation explodes.]

True, the weekend before I had not been working. I visited my dear, longtime friend Alia in her tiny blue cave-house on the south side of Dallas within walking distance of fascinating people and vegan diners. This is indeed a kind of soul rest. We sprawled like cats across the periwinkle duvet, drinking in each other’s stories, bursting with them, content to listen, to ebb and flow.  We have both changed so much over the years, and even in some important ways. But this? It stays the same. It is easy. And I am always so pleased to step into her life in the briefest of moments, whether it is trading English and Farsi curse words with her family or talking late into the night with her ragtag tribe of troubadours, artists, and 9-to-5-ers.

[On Sunday I watch her fry the eggs. I, charged with toast, load my knife with butter and marvel at the fact that I have been given close friends who make verbs out of words like home and host and harbour and haven, with a practiced ease.]

But this weekend takes on a peace in a different hue. I have cloistered away from retweets and comments and mentions, and it feels just right. I’m practicing absorption. I read Dante’s Purgatorio slowly, word by word, note by note, swallowing them rich like chocolate. I’m not sure how much time goes by. The Commedia is about a journey–arguably our own–and I laugh to think of how we’ve taken that word and run with it. Journey. I sympathize with Dante’s distraction along the way, and catch my breath when I read certain lines:

And I, who understood what he intended,

raised my tear-stained cheeks

and he restored the color

Hell had obscured in me.

He speaks in terms of color, of song, of walking, and these are things I understand.

[And Cato’s chastening at their pause to listen to the lesser song? This was enough to cut to the quick, but then professor told us that it was one of Dante’s own poems, that here was a reflected rebuke about loving his own words. Mercy, I sigh.]

I remember my cappuccino beside me and the Rilke in my bag. I’m reading his letters.

Therefore, dear sir, love your solitude and bear with sweet-sounding lamentation the suffering it causes you.

This is not the kind of thing I grew up with. Maybe I once thought that Jesus came so we wouldn’t hurt any more. Maybe instead He came because we hurt.

[Later, I will cry through this poem of Rilke’s. I realize that I want the “she” to be me.]

I call Alia [one of a small band that has been trying to get me to read him for years], pacing in the rain, running my mouth about Rilke and his loneliness, how sometimes he makes it sound like we are utterly alone at the root of it all. This worries me for me, but also for him. I want to know if he ever had a true friend in this life. She’s not sure. I tell her something I read after my professor’s memorial service, something she once wrote about loneliness as analogous to fasting, when you lean into it. You find your truest Dependency.  You are without for a while to see more clearly Whom you always have, Who always has you. See what the loneliness has for you, Lauren Winner wrote.

[I ask, am I lonely? Is that the word for it?]

I’m playing the new Mumford album [along with everyone else].

Though I may speak some tongue of old
Or even spit out some holy word
I have no strength from which to speak
When you sit me down, and see I’m weak

We will run and scream
You will dance with me
They’ll fulfill our dreams and we’ll be free

And we will be who we are
And they’ll heal our scars
Sadness will be far away…

Do not let my fickle flesh go to waste
As it keeps my heart and soul in its place
And I will love with urgency but not with haste

 

[I wonder, softly, why it seems easier to pray with Dante, Rilke, and Marcus Mumford these days.]

The rain is loud enough to allow a beating heart and nothing more, to make a quiet soul.

Prayer is not a cell phone.

Here are my cards on the table: until the last few years, I have more or less treated prayer as something that happens to me—it is something that takes me by surprise, and at times, it is something that I am doing before I realize what is happening.

This may be good in moments, very good, in fact. But it is fair to say this is an inconstant sort of prayer life, one that is difficult to maintain, even two days in a row. And as I learned from Teresa of Avila this month, even saints experience “spiritual dryness” on a semi-regular basis.

Very simply, one thing has led to another, and I know it is important for me to do this praying thing on a regular basis. Even when I don’t feel like it, even when it feels like I have not a clue what I am actually doing, even when I wish I could say I did something more tangible, like make toothpaste tubes.

And sometimes, I feel a little lost.

I think I forget that He sees the struggle and the floundering, the myriad ways and days that I try to open my heart, to acknowledge Him rightly, to commune. That even on days when the field looks barren, the verses seem distant, the stirrings seem muddled, He knows that, too, sees that, too.

He knows. He sees.

It’s not like He’s waiting by the phone, wondering why it hasn’t rung as I drive through a tunnel or frantically shove the battery back in after I’ve dropped my cell for the tenth time that day.

Alright, so I might not actually think about it in quite those 21st-century/anthropomorphic terms, but perhaps that’s something of the sentiment, in effect. (This faulty metaphor may also have something to do with the countless phone troubles I’ve had lately.)

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down
and and are acquainted with all my ways.” Ps 139: 1-3

“So [Hagar] called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God [who sees me].’”  Gen 16:13

“But the Lord was with Joseph…” Gen. 29:31

“And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” Luke 8:48

He knows. He sees.

I think there is something the fumbling that can be blessed, too, and that my clumsiness doesn’t shoo Him away somehow. And, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “The categories in the Prayer Book,” for example, “are for sharpening my intention, not for winning God’s attention.”

To be clear, I think there are some types of prayers that are more faithful than others, and I’m not talking about written vs. spontaneous vs. intercessory vs. contemplative, and so on. Rather, at the core, there are thoughtless prayers and ones with the best kind of intentionality; there are those that seek and praise Who He Is, and those that, at best, express a self-referential love. There are those that acknowledge His holiness, and those that only make Him out to be my tame imaginary friend who tells me I’m pretty when I’m having a bad hair day.

And then there are motions and surprises and trips to the grocery store and laughter and brisket sandwiches and tears and songs that can fit these categories, that can be prayerful, too.

These things I do believe.

But in stubbornness or shortsightedness or even forgetfulness, I often neglect to bring even these things to Him. Perhaps it is because it seems to be a strange inversion—how do I begin to (as a friend put it this week) “pray about prayer?”

I think one of the most vivid pictures C. S. Lewis offers in Mere Christianity is on the question of what it means when we talk about God helping us:

When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.

Maybe there is something mysterious and trusting about asking Him to grip my hand a little tighter, because the letters I’m forming seem more jagged and wild and lost today or this month. And they still might not flow well, and I still might not get the answers I want.

Maybe there is grace in the request itself, and that is a good place to start.

my thing with Lent.

This post was supposed to be about my Lenten fast: what I am giving up and why, only because, well, I am giving up social media—Facebook and Twitter—so it will be quite obvious. I wanted to detail the reasons, how I got here, and the way I roll my eyes at such an obviously twenty-something type of fast and cringe at its publicity. But then, this happened, and maybe the rest is alright unexplained.

 

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.

Growing up in a mode of faith that frowned upon anything resembling “works-based,” almost any discipline besides the vague, unguided imperative to “pray and read your Bible” bordered on working too hard for something that is gift. My concept of faithfulness was simply obedience to The Voice of God. When explanations were given for hearing The Voice of God, they were somewhat unhelpful or confusing: “it’s that thing in your gut that you don’t want to do,” “it is usually something embarrassing,” etc. (I had questions about the wide range of things that fit these criteria, but might not be the Voice of God.)

Despite these things, I still somehow knew people who fasted in some way for Lent–usually from sodas or candy or something they shouldn’t be doing too much of anyway. There was something about self-denial here, but it mostly sounded like a holier version of New Year’s resolutions to me.

As the years passed, my understanding broadened a little, possibilities peeked out of corners. I saw that maybe this could be more than earning, more than a secret way to lose 10 pounds in 40 days.

I could slowly see how fighting a habit, or starting a new one, with intention and faith could turn my fragmented, wayward self to the cross, to Him. It all still sounded abstract, but I like abstract things most days, so my heart tinkered with it quietly.

But then there is a second me, a second voice, that second-guesses my every motive. Sometimes, she’s helpful–she points out the selfishness and pride of my heart, and I can tell that she and the Holy Spirit have been talking when I wasn’t paying attention. Lots of other times, she sends me into a circular frenzy about my true intentions. It might be the kind of thing where you read the Beatitudes or something and try to mentally work through the causality of it all–“If I’m shooting for ‘poor in spirit’ to see God, am I actually being poor in spirit? How do you seek something like that without missing it entirely?” And so on. There is a bit of truth to this sort of thinking—saints don’t think they are saintly—but instead of putting one foot in front of the other, this sort of chicken-and-egg frenzy usually just paralyzes me.

Maybe you can see where I am going with all this, and why Lent has still never quite clicked for me, that I carry around these annoying hangups. I fear that doing something that feels so very against the grain as an unavoidably loud siren to spirituality will lead to arrogance, and I miss the point entirely. I will start feeling like I have done something very important, and self-denial will lost in the fray with everything else.

And this is what kept me from observing Lent last year especially. I stopped in my tracks, ignored what I think were holy nudges, and claimed the danger of my own heart over what I felt I was supposed to do. All of this was very silly anyway, because, in turn, I was secretly pleased that I had so astutely dodged the bullet of pride. That self-contradictory second voice again.

But even after last year’s Easter, my heart pricked when I thought of how deliberate I was in saying no. Every few months, I would find myself in a sort of Lent-countdown, knowing I would have to face it again. I wanted it to be different this time. But I think the final shift came with a conviction: “You only need a tiny scrap of time to move toward God,” from The Cloud of Unknowing, as quoted in Lauren Winner’s new book...which I have been quoting incessantly lately. And here, I will do it again, as Lauren describes the two-fold nature of these words:

The words slap. Busyness is not much of an excuse if it only takes a minute or two to move toward God.

But the Monk’s words console, too. For, of time and person, it seems that scraps are all I have to bring forward. That my ways of coming to God these days are all scraps.

The funny thing is that the latter part struck me as humbling, too–my efforts, my inconsistencies, my backward attempts to circumvent vices are but scrap and potsherds themselves. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as each inch I move feels like a floundering mystery anyway. But somehow, though my pride isn’t gone, and my heart still seeks to self-justify, in light of these words, the threat oddly seems less sharp.

I think I am learning, so very slowly—with Lent as well as a lot of other things—what it means to do the praxis without having to always dissect in theoria (or to know all of the Greek words, for that matter). I think I am learning what it means to put one foot in front of the other and still carry the questions around, as I learn their texture, feel their weight, and smooth them over with my thumb. I think I am learning what it means to pursue faithfulness despite fear, even if it is a fear of myself.

So this year, I will walk in Lent.