Unfinished at the Edge
Rethink Church‘s suggested theme for today’s photo is “live.” I imagine they mean the verb, with the short “i” – but looking at my knitting today, I started thinking about the heteronym – the adjective with the long “i.”
In knitting, stitches that are ready to be knit into are called “live” stitches. Whether in knitting instructions or when talking to other knitters, a stitch’s status as “live” is most often considered worth mentioning when it is off the needle. However, until the piece is finished – “cast off” – some stitches will be live.
Living involves risk. Sometimes we make visible mistakes, and we have to decide whether to move on or to unravel – sometimes we try to unravel, to undo what was done, and we end up in a worse mess than we were in before.
It is possible to take the knitting metaphor too far – there are a lot of differences between a human life and a scarf! But one thing that I have been considering that I hold most in common with knitting: at my leading edge, I can become unraveled all too easily if I am not wrapped around something stable. Just as live stitches need a needle, I need something stronger, firmer than myself in order to live securely. Thank God for God, in whom I live and move and have my being.
I have collected all of my Lenten photos so far on one page. Take a look!
Traditionally, certain Lenten disciplines are relaxed on Sundays: one may not fast on the weekly feast of the Resurrection, even during Lent. But this Lent, I am not fasting; instead I have taken on the contemplative artistic practice suggested by Rethink Church: I am taking a photo each day, as suggested by their (usually) one word daily prompts. When I noticed that they did in fact have prompts for Sundays in Lent, I considered what to do…
I have decided not to take photos on Sundays, because I take Sunday as Sabbath time with my family. However, having been a pastor, and so having been formed in the discipline of preparing ahead of the days and seasons, I will be taking my Sunday image during the week preceding.
The word for today is “settle.” I took this photo yesterday, remembering how, for a desert people, one would only settle near an existing well, or where one could dig a well.
Beside the well
I have collected all my photos so far this Lent on one page – I will be adding to this page throughout Lent.
That was the comment left by a friend on Facebook, after she had read my last blog entry. Her words made me realize that I had not been as transparent in that entry as I had hoped to be: I am giving something up for Lent – as a consequence of the lesser (and perhaps shorter than Lent) losses of giving up my ability to think clearly, my ability to stay awake during daylight hours, my ability to drive, and my ability to lift a child or a bag of groceries, I am giving up any idea of myself as necessary.
I have mixed feelings about the modern embodiments of “Lenten discipline” – especially when “giving something up for Lent” seems to have become almost a cultural norm rather than a religious one. For instance, a friend of mine told me about a colleague who hasn’t identified himself as Christian since childhood, yet he gives up alcohol for Lent every year – “to prove to himself that he is not an alcoholic.” Setting aside what is problematic in that method for establishing one’s dependence (or not) on alcohol, it illustrates nicely how divorced from spiritual ends giving something up “for Lent” has become. At the same time, I don’t think that the case against it is as cut and dried as blogger Landon Whitsitt recently suggested (awesome article, though – check it out.) Understanding one’s own motives goes a long way when it comes to this now widely accepted practice.
In any case, I did not choose my fast this year. Honestly, having missed Ash Wednesday worship this year, I initially felt alienated from any concrete expression of the season. Instead, as another friend suggested to me in the last days before the season began (but did not sink in until later) – the Spirit drove me into this wilderness. I am being given a window into a world without me in it, or at least without me being able to do many of the things which feel essential to my understanding of myself. I am discovering how inessential I am. Dust I am, and to dust I will return.
I could never have chosen to give up being necessary for Lent – or (more truly) given up my idea that I am necessary. And tonight, it took me some time to settle into being even a little bit grateful for the gift of this insight. But as with any spiritual discipline – any lesson God would teach us – learning that the world goes on without me is indeed a precious gift, and I hope over this wilderness season to find the strength to stop worrying about so many things, and instead to embrace fully the lesson that only God is necessary.