Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Famous Last Words (or, Plumb Unlucky)

Last weekend, I glibly wrote this for my column in our bulletin:
This weekend, as I was resting up and trying to shake off a new Spring cold, I heard Scott start to yell from the kitchen. He kept saying “OH NO!!! The ceiling!!! There’s a leak!!” I ran in to see that indeed, there was not just a leak – it was raining in our kitchen! Some work had been done in the upstairs bathroom that week, and that meant water that was supposed to be upstairs, ended up downstairs.
It was a complete mess. We grabbed every piece of Tupperware we have and placed them on the floor to catch the drips, and waited for the landlord to come. In preparation for the workers who will replace the ceiling this week, we moved everything out that we could, and covered the rest with plastic or sheets, in hopes to keep the dust from the construction controlled. But for me, the hardest
part of it all was that I had to take down the many pictures we have on our “wall of love.” The wall of love started with a few pictures, but each year it has grown to cover a whole wall in the corner of our kitchen. All the Christmas card photos of our friends end up on that wall, and I often stand there with a cup of coffee in my hand, looking at the faces of the people that I love and feeling thankful for their presence
on my wall and in my life. So I mourned a little, pulling down all those
pictures before the water could ruin them. I could put them back once everything is dry and fixed, but it'll never be the same.
The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of starting over. The wall is totally blank, just empty space, but I know that by the time Christmas cards start coming again, I’ll have plenty of loving faces to look at over my coffee.
I feel this way about Lent. I give up things that I love every year – not because I want to force myself to mourn, but because I know God will fill my empty places. Feeling the absence makes me appreciate the blessings that come to fill my blank slate. Stripping away some good things reminds me that so many others are without love, and I appreciate the love that I have in my life even more intensely. It’s good for me to return to baseline every year, and build up again from there. I grow deeper in trust from the loss, and deeper in gratitude for the luxury of having something so good to give up.
How’s your Lent going so far? What have you stripped away, so that God can fill in? Even if you still haven’t started yet, it’s not too late. This week, watch as God returns to you what you offer up to Him.

Well I did take all the pictures down, but I saved out four that I decided to keep up. The carpenters came during the week and rebuilt the ceiling, and we put everything back into place, and wouldn't you know it, the ceiling busted open again. I am, as I type, listening to a combination of dripping and plumbing work going on. Our whole house is disrupted, and my day is off to a dry (read: no shower, no toilet!) start. And those four pictures? They were just barely saved from this latest rainstorm.
And that reminded me of Lent too. It made me think that I choose my sacrifices pretty carefully; I'll give up this but I'm definitely keeping that. I don't feel called to give up on that this year. Haven't I sacrificed enough?
Now, I should say that while I get the idea of sacrifice (I really do, you don't have to comment and teach me) and I'm all for it, I also remember that Jesus said the Sabbath is made for us, not the other way around... I don't think sacrificing should be just for the sake of sacrificing. I don't think God rained... rain down upon my four treasured pictures just to prove an ascetic point to me.
It's just that it reminded me that I don't have all the answers, that I can't control my life experience nor my faith experience. And it reminded me that my faith and my beliefs will always be tested- so if I'm going to go off teaching about God through my experience, I'd better be prepared to re-write my lesson plans now and again.
I do have a propensity to try to see challenges as spiritual exercises (although not so much lately as my spiritual muscles have been pretty taxed) and this is no different. Today I'll have to wait to get to work to poop, and I'll hope my hair doesn't look to awful and that no one will be able to smell... ahem, tell, that I've not showered today. And when I feel uncomfortable, I'm going to try to remind myself about those people who haven't showered in a while, who don't know when or where they'll be able to poop next, people who are turned away because they smell... and I'll remind myself to be thankful for all I have.

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