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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Half Way There

Today is day 20 in our 40 day journey towards Easter...half way home. My journey has been filled with ups and downs, joy and sorrow, success and disappointment. I suppose that's just another way of saying that my Lenten journey has been an accurate reflection of life.
I have been mindful of the season and for this I am grateful. I am doing better with my New Year's resolution. My renewed "Lenten Resolve" has empowered me to stick to it. My daily readings in "Reliving the Passion" have been stirring and thought-provoking. Our Wednesday evening services related to experiential worship have been deeply meaningful in both preparation and participation. I am learning more deeply what it means to worship God with my heart, mind, soul and strength. It's been satisfying to try some new, creative ideas and enjoy a more intimate time of worship and conversation with the small group who have gathered. Our Sunday services have been rich and life-giving. I feel that it is all pointing to Christ's death which reminds me of my sinfulness, but also His resurrection which instills hope and promise where the darkness threatens. I have failed to give up what I intended to give up, but have cut back and am at least mindful of practicing some level of discipline and awareness. Most of all, I am acutely aware of my own failings and how much I stand in need of God's love and Christ's grace. This is not such an easy part of my journey but it is an important one.
I am working on being a less angry, frustrated person. And this is not easy because part of what I have realized during this season of introspection is that I am an angry, frustrated person. Yes, there are reasons for why I feel all balled up inside but I don't like the way in which these feelings are manifesting in difficult conversations and conflicts with my colleagues. When a conflict arises in a conversation, I can be a difficult person to encounter. I am a bit of a hot-head which is not a good trait. I raise my voice quickly and I can be very aggressive with my point of view. I interrupt. I come on very strongly...too much so. I need to change this action and yet at times I feel helpless to do so.
Fortunately, I am able to return to the person or people involved and beg forgiveness but a pattern of blowing up, walking away and returning to apologize does not lead to the accomplishment of goals. This pattern alienates others and instead of dealing with the issues on the table, I find that I am dealing with the aftermath of an anger driven conversation. It's making me crazy right now in part because it makes me feel so bad about myself and in part because the legitimate issues that truly concern me never really get addressed...which increases the cycle of frustration and anger. Quite simply put, it's a bad and unproductive cycle. I have to change and yet we are all perhaps familiar with the adage, change is hard.
My husband on the other hand is one of the coolest cats I've ever met. He just does not lose his cool, ever. It is maddening and wonderful all at the same time. It gives him power and presence in conversations and I envy that approach to problem-solving. Admittedly, sometimes I wonder if he feels the deep passion that I do. The calm, cool collected approach surely must have a down side. Or does it? I would actually love to find out what it's like to be that cool. I wonder if he ever wonders what it's like to get smoking mad hot?
The upshot of my internal dialogue has led me to find a ridiculous amount of comfort as I read about Peter. He loved Jesus and yet often his behavior was not that of an exemplary disciple. Through my readings I am reminded that Peter fell asleep in the garden, boasted that he would stand by Jesus to the death, denied him not once, but three times, and in indignation, cut off a guard's ear. How bizarre to find comfort in such behaviors. But I suppose I am happy to know that Peter was a hot head. Best of all, it ends well for 'ol Pete. The keys to the Kingdom of God were eventually given to him. The photo below is taken outside of St. Peter's in Rome of mad Peter himself, key in hand, a symbol of how God used him to build his church. If God used Peter to build his church, if God trusted Peter with the keys to His house, then perhaps he will also use me. Perhaps the key in this case is in allowing the love of God to consume me more than the anger and frustration of this world. Maybe I should carry a key in my pocket at all times to remind me of these things.
Half way home. My failings have never been more obvious to me. And yet, redemption, renewal, and restoration have never seemed more appealing either. Over the next three weeks I am going to continue to focus on allowing God's love to become more manifest within me than any other emotion or stronghold. I am going to keep on trying to give up anger and frustration for lent. And when I fail, I will be grateful for the grace that longs to free me from my despair. I feel utterly grateful that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I too, have been given the keys to His Kingdom.