Squinting (A Lenten Practice?)

Shine on me! Blind me with grace.  And to myself, I whisper – Wake up!

Breaking into the darkness – the sun lights up the world, the words light up the page – and I am awake.  A sleeper waking up literally – rising figuratively from the dead of a haunted, tossed up sleep, turning away from one thought only to be engaged by a vision equally strange and scary. Squinting, I make out shapes I recognize and my heart beat slows.

The sun really does just break into the morning and then it immediately stretches glowing fingers of light to fill the previously dark sky.  Previously, as in the second before, pitch black – can’t see my own hand in front of my face, dark sky; and blink.  Blindingly beautiful orange and deep raspberry sorbet pink fills the sky and the only darkness is that of the outlined mountains silhouetted in the distance.  Snap – a room that was seconds before only lit by candles which created a foggy glow – just barely enough light to see the words on the page – is now illuminated – the words are clear and easy to see.

Every weekday morning my first alarm goes off ta 5:47, the second at 5:53.  I am usually awake at least ten minutes before these alarms, but I let them each go off in turn – the repetitive metallic trilling tunes of an iphone and the vibrating off the shelf for good measure.  Each morning I wait for these alarms, swipe them away and wait a little while longer – putting off the inevitable press to get ready and out the door in time to be at school by 7:30 – a 40 minute drive.

Weekends though, with the belief that I will be able to enjoy sleep just a little longer – no alarm to ring over my head – no anticipation waking me before the trill – I wake up an hour earlier (at least). 4:45AM. Sometimes 3.  Always, always, wide – not-tired-at-all, no way to lull myself back into dreamland – awake.  Every pending responsibility – swiftly – smoothly -fills the dark silence around me.  Finish grading, finish painting, mulch the yard, do the laundry and get it put away, clean the house – inspire tired family to clean the house, and prior to this weekend: finish executive summary, edit poster, pick out professional looking attire to attend Master’s symposium, check all the things….. Check. All. The. Things.

Last weekend, I gave up trying to trick my tired brain into sleeping and decided to embrace the darkness.  Try for a Lenten practice I’ve been failing to even begin…and sit quietly with a cup of coffee and some reading, surrounded by candles in the living room – taking notes for posterity.  Two beautifully uninterrupted hours of reading on the couch; squinting at the pages because it’s much more difficult to read by candlelight than the movies would have you believe. It was from this position that I observed the sun’s triumphant entry and the start of a new day.

My confession to you readers?  I don’t have a Lenten practice at all this Lent. Four weeks in and I have not pegged any one practice as something that would be meaningful to my journey right now. Honestly, I think not having a practice has made me think about Lent more than having a practice that might distract me – so perhaps that’s some sort of subconscious spiritual success?  The last few years, I have really enjoyed the Christian season of Lent.  The season of preparing for Jesus’s death and resurrection – a season of remembering that I am dust and to dust I will return…..As silly or self-condemning as this may seem, it’s a wonderfully thoughtful practice for me.  Important to my understanding of my place in the world and the purpose for which I’m here.

I’m not here to raise myself to the best level – though being my personal best is important.  I’m not here to convert the world to my way of thinking.  I’m not here to prove how righteous I am, and how sinful all the rest.  I’m not here to be better than anyone else, or more educated, or richer, or more worldly.  All of those things are lovely and have a wonderful place in my life and that of many others – but they are not my main purpose.

From dust I come and to dust I will return.

My main purpose is to Love.  To live by Truth and foster Peace.

Every year, the one practice I do succeed in completing is literature related.  Literature serves as a good procrastination tool and therefore, I am VERY good at reading what I have set out to read.

About five years ago – as I was just coming to the end of my schooling at Sacramento City College, I took a British Lit class, in which we tackled William Langland’s Piers Plowman.  Passus 18 (and really most of the dream vision epic poem).  This is an allegory for the death and resurrection of Jesus in which the maidens Righteousness, Truth, Mercy, Grace and eventually Peace and Love debate the fairness and eventual success of a servant savior who intends and succeeds in saving mankind from mortal peril by basically tricking the system.  If you believe in Jesus, you believe this crazy story that a man of questionable parentage – the first half-blood if you will  – lives a blameless life and dies a sinners death.  His death does not fit the rules of judgement and therefore, the original covenant is broken.  We are forgiven for not being able to live up to the rules set before – we are forgiven because we are broken and it is recognized and Grace received.

Passus 18 ends this way:

After sharp showers,’ quoth Peace · `most glorious is the sun;
Is no weather warmer · than after watery clouds.
Nor no love dearer · nor dearer friends,
Than after war and woe · when Love and Peace be masters.
Was never war in this world · nor wickedness so keen,
That Love, if he pleased · could not bring to laughter,
And Peace through patience · all perils stopped.’

“Never a war in this world….that love could not bring to laughter – and peace through patience all perils stopped.”

That is my goal in Lent – and in my life in general.  The planting and nurturing of Love and Peace – fostering the growth of community and self-sacrificing care which creates so many connections in this broken world that the cracks begin to fade – sewn together with the roots of these gracefully given gifts – reflected indefinitely.

The foggy dawn slipping away, I no longer need to squint at the fuzzy words smudged on the pages; sunshine beaming brightly now through the slightly open window.  The chilly air of March tingling with just a tinge of winter – and the day is awake – I am awake.

Around 6:45, like clockwork, the littlest strolls down the hallway.  Her hair is a crazy  mess of collar knots and she is wrapped in a woolly blanket – a squinting sleep still lingers in her eyes -refusing to fully accept the brightness of the morning, but her refusal to fall back to sleep puts a little spring in her step and a resolute sweetness on her face.  My quiet time ends and a new day begins.

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  That is why it is said:  ‘Wake up sleeper,rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'” (Ephesians 5:14ish,NIV)


2 thoughts on “Squinting (A Lenten Practice?)

  1. ❤ I also did not settle on a Lenten practice this year, but I did have a few mornings like what you described. What is required of us, the yoke of Jesus, is so simple and so far from easy. Love, and all the rest fades away. Thank you for your words.

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