OK, earlier today and pretty much all day yesterday (and, well, most of last week too), I was feeling terrible and berating myself for dropping too many balls I had been trying to juggle, even if poorly. But I’ve decided to give myself a break, and change my perspective. Maybe I didn’t really drop those balls so much as let them go. Sure, I could have set them down gently, but I didn’t feel like I could do that. So I just let go of them while they were in midair. I didn’t drop them, I just didn’t catch them. See, that way it’s less like I’m a flake, and more like I was giving myself a clearly much-needed rest.
Because I really did need a break. Clearly. I took a week off from school, and work, and housework, and pretty much doing anything productive. Sure I blogged once or twice, but not as much as I’d planned to. And my Spring Break to-do list? It was really really long. And, frankly, there are only a couple of things crossed out on it. And one of those things was to see a movie, and another was to sleep in every day (see, I can plan relaxing things too!). Part of was the depression that was made worse by the really crummy weather. Another part was a kind of childish temper tantrum of sorts. I don’t wanna do anything responsible! I want a vacation from life!
So, today I’m going at 110 mph to get caught up. See, I had a paper due today that I didn’t even think about during my week off. Actually, the catch up started a little yesterday, with the first sunny day all week. I got out in the yard and got started on my potato tower (more on that later), and bought up lots of plants with the plan of getting the yard settled sometime this summer.
As for my Lenten Meditation, I’ve been keeping up with that even though I haven’t been blogging. That’s a little bit of sanity that has probably kept me from being really really depressed. I’m not going to catch up on all two weeks of blogging today, but will likely break it up into a couple of posts throughout this last week of Lent.
The theological notion of sin contains a heaviness, because it’s often used to point out the faults in others rather than to free us from traps that prevent us from loving God. … Jesus uses the question as an opportunity to teach that
culpability—establishing blame or guilt or responsibility for sin—is not the issue we need to address when we encounter suffering in our world. He reminds us that the issue of culpability lies in our response to suffering and in our ability to love with compassion, not judgment.
Becca Stevens (Tuesday, March 20)
This really struck a chord with me. I know a lot of us use the term “sin” when referring to our own failings, in addition to the larger sins committed in society. How often do we use the term to think poorly of another person? How often do we catalog someone else’s failings? Probably more often than we’d care to admit. Sure, we may consider ourselves forgiving when it comes to our friends and family, but how about the people we see in popular culture? When we hear of a grisly crime committed by someone, as a culture we love to nitpick the case and find the shortcomings of all those involved. Really, you know I’m referencing the recent shooting of Treyvon Martin by George Zimmerman, but it also applies to pretty much every high profile case over the years, not to mention the celebrity gossip stories about who is in rehab and who is having an affair and so on.
I get that we like to make ourselves feel better. It’s only natural, since we’re pretty much always aware of our own motivations and the intimate details in our own lives, while those details are often missing from the public discourse on these other incidents, that we would be quicker to assign blame rather than find understanding and compassion. But I argue that that is exactly what Jesus was preaching. To take it to the next step, sins are committed by people who are suffering, and when they sin is when they most need our compassion and love.
So much of healing is about becoming real with ourselves and asking God to enter into our lives to show us a new way, a new life.
Shannon Ferguson Kelly (Wednesday, March 21)
This is what I think Lent is really about — taking time out of the year to pause and look around at our lives and see what is out of balance. Really, that is something I feel I should be doing all throughout the year, and to a certain extent I do, but Lent is a special time of self-reflection that is a bit different from the pre-birthday self-reflection and the pre-New Year’s self-reflection. Those are generally more optimistic times with goal-setting activities, while Lent, at least for me, is about taking stock and being honest with myself about my personal shortcomings, and asking for help to make the necessary changes.
Specifically, for me, Lent is about learning how to be more present in my day-to-day life with all its ups and downs, rather than checking out with TV or alcohol. I don’t really have a TV or alcohol problem, but I do notice that when I’m especially stressed, I tend to turn to those two escape hatches. This year, I gave up alcohol, and figured that my busy work and school schedule would help keep my TV-watching in check. For the most part, it did. But it all fell apart during Spring Break. And while it’s tempting for me to kick myself about spending practically a whole week watching all kinds of television shows I’d been saving on my TiVo, I’m actually pretty happy I was able to have that down-time. It would have been better, though, had I actually scheduled genuine downtime, instead of just disappearing from the parts of my life that weren’t on Spring Break — namely my work commitments. Sadly, I’ve probably damaged that relationship. It’s not completely broken (as far as I can tell), but it is certainly going to take extra work on my part for a while to repair my reputation there, and that’s unfortunate.
In order to truly heal our world, we must prepare “good soil” for the only seeds we have: our children. Preparing good soil is difficult work, but important work we cannot afford to shirk.
Cynthia Coe (Thursday, March 22)
While the importance of our future generations is not deniable, I would argue that the “good soil” is not merely related to the children, but to the communities in which they live. When we care for adults in our communities, we are strengthening the group as a whole, and setting a good example for children who will also be adults one day. It’s easy to garner assistance for children — it’s socially acceptable to help them because we feel it is in our nature to do so. But what about helping adults? Adults are often left out of these programs because we feel they should be able to take care of themselves. I would argue that adults who are not taking care of themselves are suffering from some lack of strength or self-value, and we owe it to them and our community to reach out to help them as well. When we help a child, it can have positive repercussions throughout that child’s life, certainly. But when we help and adult, we strengthen the community that child will grow up to inhabit, as well as teaching that child that all people deserve our compassion and love.
This Lenten season, let us never forget the privilege—and the responsibility—of our wealth. My choice to buy an expensive lunch has a consequence. My choice to share of my wealth with others also has a consequence. That gift changes two lives: mine and that of someone I will never meet.
Scott Gunn (Friday, March 23)
On a lighter note, I often talk to my cat, Mr. Bob, and tell him that he is so lucky, he doesn’t even know he’s lucky. See, he hasn’t really faced any hardships in his life. Not like my other cat Little Girl, who spent her first couple of years living outside, enduring all kinds of weather and defending herself from other animals. I suspect somewhere in her little cat brain, she knows she’s lucky to live inside now, where the food dish is always full, and the only animal attacking her is Mr. Bob, and he’s usually play. No, Mr. Bob hasn’t been outside for any length of time, and leads a pretty cushy life. But you wouldn’t know it by how much he complains. See, sometimes the food in the food dish is old — meaning it was set out in the morning, and it’s now lunchtime. And he doesn’t always get the prime lap position he’d like (although more often than not, he does).
Human privilege is basically the same. We don’t always know the things that we’ve been handed merely by our accident of birth. We think we struggled to get this or that, when it’s very likely we had a fair amount of help along the way. The only way to realize our privileges are just that is to try and see how different our lives would be if we’d been born under different circumstances. But, even then, that might just reinforce our sense of achievement. It’s only when we recognize that there are severe imbalances in our world that we can truly appreciate our privileges.
And it’s a work in progress requiring continual effort and commitment on our part. Just as culture is the thing we don’t recognize in ourselves until we see it in relation to those whose culture is different from ours, so too our privileges cannot be seen until we compare them to the disadvantages others face.