The Lenten season is never a particularly easy one for me…I tend to take the set-apart nature of this time very seriously, and conduct my own very intense version of the 12-step “ruthless moral inventory” to the very maximum. Throw in a little of the type of soul-searching and relationship review that precedes the commemoration of Yom Kippur, and add a dash of my own personal intensity, and well, you can imagine what these weeks are like inside my spirit and my head. I have always loved the Lenten season, despite its difficulties — but not this year.
Without burdening those of you who kindly read what I write with the gruesome details of my ongoing discernment process, I want to share with you one totally vivid mental image given to me by my spiritual director in our recent meeting, given to me to lift myself out of the feelings of failure and loss that I have been struggling with this Lenten season.
She said to me, “Perhaps you have just been obsessed with trying to put a star-shaped peg into a round hole.”
In that moment, it was clear to me: all that reading I was doing about the nature of faith and works in the letters of Paul and James, I was trapped again in clutches of worrying about what I was doing, desperately trying to take my talents and fit them into, well, the round hole of our cultures definitions of work and success.
Obsession, not calling. Obsession, not listening. Control, not acceptance. Works as proof of faith, rather than works as an organic part of faith.
I read recently on a blog called the Clay Pot Chronicles that our failing is often that we begin with work and try to make that into acceptance. Instead, what if we woke every morning with the clear peace of our acceptance, and from that place we are led to the day’s work ahead? That way, we all might have a chance of finding the star-shaped hole for our star-shaped peg.
And so, as I move through these last days of Lent and through the heart-wrenching work of Holy Week to come, I am going to put down my hammer, stop trying to make fit what doesn’t fit. And as I stand for the fifth year in a row to sing of the mystery of Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday, I am going to remind myself that I will see the right hole when the time is right, when there is the right convergence of faith and wholeness. Until then, I just have to content myself with a really interesting star-shaped peg.