Lent doesn’t start until Ash Wednesday, of course, but my lovely seasonal black book has already started as of yesterday. Every little (insert liturgical color) book starts off with a page urging you to examine your goals for the special Church season. Then the rest of the book has daily six-minute meditations on appropriate scripture for the season, plus a page of tidbits and trivia.
In thinking about my goals for Lent, the usual suspects came to mind. Give up Starbucks! (With, as my boyfriend pointed out, the ulterior motive of saving money). Give up chocolate! (with the ulterior motive of eating more healthily, which I need to do anyway). Joey is very good about pointing out the shortcomings in my shortcuts. So tonight I sat still for a bit and thought about Lenten goals for real. Let me tell a short story first so my thoughts make more sense.
Last Sunday I worked my first recital for the music department. The audience filed past me into the auditorium, taking a program each. One was an old man wrapped in many layers of mismatched winter gear. I couldn’t figure out from looking at him if he was homeless or just a little eccentric. Another worker told me that he’d been warned that this guy comes to most, if not all, recitals.
The performer had ordered two vases of flowers, one for the stage next to her and one for the back table near the entrance. The man kindly took a program from me and continued on, but drew up short at the sight of the flowers. “Real flowers!” he exclaimed, and proceeded to bury his face in them, breathing deeply. The joy on his face was heartwarming, even if I was a bit shocked by his behavior.
While thinking quietly tonight, I realized, I want that kind of joy. The joy at things as simple as a vase of flowers in the middle of winter. Not only do I want it for myself, but I want to be able to transmit it to others. I struggle a lot with finding ways to love certain people in my life, especially when overt gestures of love are harshly criticized. The key, I concluded, is prayer. Prayer for them can only help our relationships, and prayer can deepen my appreciation of little gifts and ultimately lead to joy.
I tend to sideline prayer. In a life in which everything is mentally scheduled, prayer just doesn’t make it very often into my daily routine. It’s hard to find a spare moment, especially when I have the energy to focus. I also struggle with feeling fulfilled in prayer, like I’m holding a conversation with someone who loves me, not just a wall. So maybe I don’t try because I don’t want to feel so inadequate. I don’t want to face nagging doubts about whether God is really there. It’s much easier not to try.
But as I’ve seen, I miss out on so much without a good relationship with God. So, my Lenten goal is to try. Not to feel better, not to necessarily find joy, but just to try.