So, Lent comes to an end this weekend. Logistics this year mold my experience into a multi-day celebration. Last night we met at church to figure out how to have 100 choir and orchestra musicians share a stage with a giant cross that will be raised into the air at the climactic moment of the service. I am work-free for a five day weekend that constitutes our spring break. There will be more music, a bit of family, a bit of solitude, hopefully a bit of hiking or at least “medium-distance wandering” outside.
Here is what I learned from giving up TV this Lent:
Just because it was spiritual and meaningful the first time, doesn’t mean it will be spiritual and meaningful the fourth time. The first Lent I tried this, I learned so much about my relationship with TV, about my relationship with silence and solitude, about how TV has the capacity to be an obstacle to my relationship with God and with other people. But, in small part because of that experience, I am different now. I have a more positive view of silence and solitude than I did a few years ago. Indeed, I now understand that both silence and solitude are essential to my soul’s well being, in moderation. I now have the ability to see when TV is becoming an obstacle to the parts of life I want more of, and I can fix it. I naturally “take a break” from TV whenever I need it. I use TV to be inspired by stories I love and to motivate me through tasks I despise.
Because I know myself better than I did before, I recognize what I need each day and in each situation. The 40-day examination of this habit was redundant. It has been examined enough for now.
Giving up a habit or indulgence for Lent is a different practice than examining one’s relationship with a habit or indulgence. Giving up something you enjoy to enhance your Lenten spiritual experience is best done when you have the intention of joining Jesus in his suffering in order to join him in the joy of his Resurrection. This is a valuable and wonderful intention. But it is not where I am spiritually right now.
The God of the universe doesn’t need me to make sure I’m in a place of sacrifice and suffering for a particular 6 weeks each year. He created my soul apart from time. He colors my soul with characteristics, desires, impulses, as He sees fit, regardless of the calendar. I learn over and over again that it is better to listen for His rhythm in my life, not the rhythm of the calendar or any other worldly control.
Awareness to the rhythm of my soul is more valuable than seeking constancy or balance in every moment. This is a lesson that must be relearned, over and over. The past week or so, my spiritual practice — how I find connection with God — has been a creative sort of energy. I need to be inspired by art and make art. God is asking me to join him in creating. I need to put myself in the path of other makers, as often as possible. I need to make something, as often as possible.
Someday soon, this part of the rhythm will pass for now, and I’ll need to delve into scripture, or clean my house as a catharsis, or indeed, to empty myself of something to make space. Or something else I don’t know about right now. That’s the point: I can’t predict my own soul’s desires, much less God’s work in my life. Spirituality, following Jesus, is a relationship, a conversation that continues.