There’s a sign hanging over the door that leads from my laundry room to the carport, reminding my family to “Make Good Choices” out there. You might think I’m the kind of Mom who raised her kids on these words, but frankly, you’d be wrong. That sign hangs there – always slightly askew, never mind my countless efforts to straighten it – reminding me of the many times I heard my daughter say these words to my son while the two were growing up. Always with a hint of playful sass, these words were shouted through open car windows at school or before the front door slammed shut, letting her brother know she cared about what he would do that day.
Make Good Choices.
You may have noticed that Lent began today. Driving home from church, ashes imposed on my forehead in the shape of a cross, I started to wonder whether a Lenten discipline makes sense for me this year. Should I give something up? Take something on? Running through the list of past seasons in my head, I recalled the year I gave up coffee and considered whether God might be pleased with me doing that again… My very next thought was actually to figure out what I would replace that habit with, for the next 40 days plus weekends. (It also felt weak given that I had to give up caffeine last fall, which was definitely a greater sacrifice than giving up decaf would be now. Seriously.)
I remembered the year I gave up my wardrobe from Fat Tuesday until Easter (no – I didn’t pull an Isaiah 20:3). Failing to consult with my daughter first, I chose seven outfits to wear during Lent, ignoring the rest of my closet for the duration. About two weeks in, she said something that sounded like: “What were you thinking? I would not have picked that shirt. Why didn’t you ask me for help?” Good memories.
I could recap the entire monologue that played out in my head for you, but let’s not waste your time. Here’s where I’ve landed tonight…
Life has been a challenge these past couple of years. You haven’t heard from me because I’ve spent a disproportionate number of days grieving losses and struggling to create a sense of normalcy around the person I see in the mirror each day and the life that she now leads, which often doesn’t feel familiar to me. The old Brita would already have an idea for a Lenten adventure, which she would have invited you to join her in, and trust me – it would have been deep and meaningful. I catch glimpses of her every now and then, and she makes me smile.
The Brita we have to work with, however, is acutely aware of the fact that life is hard and she has changed and nevertheless – God can use what she’s got left to make a difference in the world.
Third-person references aside, I realized on my way home tonight that I have been so focused on just being okay that I’ve failed to create anything new. I don’t think there was a healthy workaround for this – I’ve had to walk this road of change and loss in order to get through it. But if there is something I can do that will please God during this season of Lent, it isn’t going to be a discipline that shines the light on me, my addictions and shortcomings.
If there is anything missing in my life right now, it’s everyone else.
I have what I need – and most of what I want – most days. I could easily exist quite comfortably in the little bubble I’ve created, tending to my knitting (correction: to my husband’s knitting) and risking implosion at some later date. But when I asked God on my drive home tonight what would please Him for me to do for Lent, I’m pretty sure I heard: “Make the world a better place.”
So, that is what I’m going to try to do. For the next 40 days, I am going to ask God to show me how I can make the world better for my being present in it. I might share some of my stories with you, but I kind of feel as if the world (and probably you) are weary of words and starving for proof of life instead. Jesus’ life, that is.
I don’t know if you have already decided on your Lenten discipline, but if you haven’t, maybe you’ll do this thing with me. Invest your energy and creativity in the people and problems that others are content to criticize and condemn.
Less talk. More action.
Let’s make the world a better place.