I only really noticed the niggle at the back of my brain about 1 mile from my destination. I had checked my calendar on my phone for the day’s events the previous day. Yes, I was surprised at the 5 blocks of colour – 5 events – 5 appointments and tasks. That’s unlike me, I thought, to have scheduled so many things on Ash Wednesday. I didn’t remember that was happening. Oh well, life is busy so just keep going. That’s why I’ve taken to putting things down in writing or electronically a lot more. Don’t want to forget something or someone!
When I turned into the church for the breakfast meeting, I knew something was wrong. No one was there. I laughed out loud – more ironic than happy – and checked the diary. Wednesday. Yep, that’s today. 13th. Correct. Wait a minute … it’s not March is it? The ol’ 28 days of February means that the March dates align with days and as someone who doesn’t really know the dates during the week except for Sunday in a given month … well, at least I under-stood how I was an idiot! When I checked the previous day I somehow looked up March. Seconds later I was on my way home. (Hmm … I wonder if Charlotte’s made porridge yet?)
How appropriate for me to begin Lent this way! With a mistake. In this case, an error whose nuisance value only affected me. Of course it could have been worse but it wasn’t. I hadn’t left someone else waiting. I didn’t have to explain it to anyone. (Charlotte’s used to my weird hours.) I wasn’t overly pleased but I wasn’t cross or angry – more exasperated – with myself.
But then began another niggle as I drove home. Actually, it would be ‘easy’ to blame others – easy according to me. I’m not saying that this would be necessarily the most rational, logical, truthful, or reasonable thing to do but I could have come home angry and cross and taken it out on Charlotte – somehow it being her fault. I could blame my work – there’s a lot of it I could say – or I could find something else. My niggle in this case was my self interest – it is part of me as much as my DNA. Perhaps I could now play ‘poor me’? There is no ending to the permutations of my niggle if I fed it and nourished it and nurtured it all the way home – why not all day? Or for the rest of the week?
Yes, how appropriate to begin Lent this way. With a reminder that this part of the church year isn‘t so much focused on giving up things or even specific sins – though they should be faced and worked on for the sake of the people around us! – but on me – especially the ‘secret me’ – the niggly me – the me that only God sees. That’s what Lent is for – to get me to see it too! My living breathing self is a sinner, a self interested, self absorbed sinner – and not matter how hard I might try to be nice, I do so in this body, in this time and place. I can understand the Apostle Paul when he says in Romans (7:24) ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?’
Paul also answered his question with the next verse. ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.’ (Romans 7:25) Lent is about putting those two verses together. — GS