Friday, February 20, 2015

Scourging the Heart

On the first Friday of this new Lenten season, I am considering my fasts and sacrifices for the season. I am a person tempted to extremes; I tend to make hard plans. I then have to remind myself, frequently, that it is not possible to "fail" Lent. There were some words of wisdom in today's readings:

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed

(Isaiah 58:6-8a)

On Ash Wednesday the notion that appeared over and over in my prayers was "a scourging of my heart." In all honesty, I wanted to push off this image at first; it sounds melodramatic, dire, extreme. Yet, it's entirely appropriate. It's one of those "be careful what you pray for" prayers. I was left then to consider what sacrifices will lead me there.

This year, I am fasting from criticism, "helpful" or not. I am so often convicted by my critical tongue. I will take care not to offer many (if any) opinions. I will practice, instead, letting the words pass unsaid. Yesterday, at work, I literally had to hold my lips together at one point! We live in a culture of opinions. I want to see what can come of me keeping mine to myself. I am going to consciously lessen my idle chatter as well. It's not enriching the world.

As a family, we are taking on a "fast food fast" and Food Stamps budget; these are hard on the children but less challenging for me. More challenging will be to journal my food intake for the day. These food related sacrifices are an opportunity to learn from the pain of self-discipline and to lean more heavily on the Holy Spirit.

This is born of the desire to create in me a clean heart. I do not know if it's the shortest path but it's the one I'm headed out on right now. I am seeking not only a scourging of the heart, but total restoration.

A clean heart create for me God;
Renew within me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your face
or take me from your Holy Spirit.
Restore to me the gladness of your salvation;
Uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51: 12-14

What are you seeking?

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