a good friday post.

“Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world…”

When I survey the wondrous cross…

I sing out the words loud and open, knowing that I do so because I love Isaac Watts more than I truly understand the words. This happens to me more often than you’d think—lying in church. But this is why I keep showing up nonetheless: these lies are also prayers that one day I will be telling the truth.

The cross? Wondrous because foreign. That crown? So rich because it’s unreachable.

Love so amazing, so divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

This, this is true. This at least. I know what is demanded.

—————–

In these twenty-something years, the cross has held both my highest mysticism and my coldest shrug.

—————–

I cry through the collects.

for those in loneliness, fear, and anguish…

for those who face temptation, doubt, and despair…

for the sorrowful and bereaved…

for those who have lost their faith…

for those hardened by sin or indifference…

these and other passions I know—in names I pray and on my very skin.

The Passion? A distant bloodbath on just another pretty man.

——————

I hold the Eucharist in high regard–you would think I’ve come to terms with the Sacrifice. Each week, Body, broken for you; blood shed for you. Each week, these holy mysteries. But this day of the Holy Mystery, there is no sweetness or burn of wine, no bread, because this day is all Body, all Blood. And I’m standing a million miles away.

——————–

I break my Triduum hiatus from facebook by half-accident to see Preston’s status, and I’m sure this is me:

“[…] See, me, this certain believer, this always in the church Christian, has never struggled with a God big enough and wonderful enough to create cosmos and come again and burst forth on Easter Day. This always-faithful Christian struggles to believe in the God who died. […]”

 ——————

This is the part that will sound better or worse than it was.

This is the part I wish I wasn’t telling you—that I went home from that service, found an odd cigarette from some rebellious night past, and lit it on my back stoop, alone, into the night. I’m not going to pretend this smoke was sacrament, or even right, but it suddenly seemed very very important to breathe the death and guilt into my lungs on this night and watch it materialize in front of me. To flick the ash I missed on my brow almost forty days ago, to taste the darkness on my lips though the flame long extinguished, to feel the sickness coming on me like sin.

Halfway through, street noises died down just long enough for me to think I hear the curtain rent in two.

——————–

Tomorrow, Holy Saturday, I will plant something in my windowbox. A friend told me this is something of a tradition, that what you plant in earth on the day our Lord was in the ground is sure to grow well. This is not quite orthodoxy, but I will get dirt under my nails in fear and trembling. I will pray a small thanks for the more than small hope that my faith doesn’t require total understanding, that my belief holds more and less than my discursion.

But I will plant, hoping something Good and True will rise from the dead.

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twenty-twelve debrief: part two.

you can read the first part of this debrief here.

I gave up social media for Lent. 

It was not, after all, all that spectacularly difficult. I didn’t even “cheat.” I checked once on Sundays for notifications and mentions, just, you know, to be polite. I didn’t have many; I had, after all, announced my  “fast.” The quiet was nice. I found myself not obsessing over dings and buzzes on my phone, found the halt when I typed in “tw–” or “fa–” in my searchbar to be nice, too.

Nice. Neato. Not much more, if I’m honest. I wonder if I entered in wanting to be transformed, instead of to be faithful in observing the season, in grieving, in worshipping–and letting Grace transform me in the process. [I was fumbling for bright instead of the Light.] I paused once or twice in forty days to pray instead of tweet, to thumb a homemade chaplet in the middle of a coffeeshop. I didn’t do much of the real work, the heartstuff. Though there is something to be said for praying even when you’re not  paying attention, there weren’t even many prayers to yawn through. No repetition to lean on.

It was, in the end, a very nice exercise.

[Spring Break was nothing much to comment on. I spent the first four days completely in bed reading a book about mental illness and some other book I can’t remember but had been trying to finish for ages. This might have been the apex of crisis.]

Easter weekend came along, to be spent with the guys in Houston. I’ll spare you the gushing about what a weekend that was because I think I’m turning into the very worst mommy-blogger who brags about how awesome her kids are. What a blessing they are and how she can’t take credit. Just replace kids with friends.

[Except my friends ARE awesome AND a blessing AND I can’t take credit.]

But I will tell you that it was my first go-around of observing Holy Week in its entirety: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, Easter morning. And I will tell you that when the light came in on Saturday evening, when the sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal was suddenly overcome with new adornments and Resurrection-song, something of the Resurrection happened in me. As I write this, I wonder if my half-assed Lenten observation was the right juxtaposition with that Easter. That maybe the point of that Holy Week (and maybe all of them) was the redemption despite, not because.

We drove home to Waco with due assignments on our backs, and thus began the series of unnecessary all-nighters that marked the end of my college career. There were late-night baking frenzies, taco runs, library stakeouts, verbal drills for our Great Texts verbal examination, piles of articles and books on my desk that ended up amounting to a crazed and pathetic academic end to the semester.

I dreaded graduation week. It felt like the end of everything. It felt like I had nothing to celebrate.

But thank goodness for those wonderful people to end it with, to remind me of what we had accomplished after all. And we celebrated a lot. Early graduation morning, we sat in the living room of our favorite coffeehouse, favorite drinks in had. Months later, I would sweep beneath the chairs we sat in, wondering if I was gathering any of the last words we spoke as undergraduates, sacraments and pop culture references in the same breath.

We walked across the stage, greeted by cheers and the very best professors at the foot of the stairs.

I took a walk with Erica as the sun went down that evening, with my gifted pearls on, because neither of us could unclasp them. [The things you remember.] We circled around campus, tasting the word “graduates” for the first time. Both of us were staying in Waco, desperately thankful for that “both,” but not knowing how to proceed.

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful sunset.

To be continued, again.

So, this has turned out different than I expected. I’m writing without edits, and that means longer posts, I guess. It’s not really fair to you, but you know, read what you can. Here’s part three.

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.