Kiloran Bay on the Isle of Colonsay, Scotland
[Lent] It’s about stripping of the false self in order to call forth the true self-the imago dei.
It’s about surrendering the things that don’t give life in order to allow the things that do to flourish.
~Lacy Clark Ellman~
Lent stirs and disturbs.
If we let it, the season will stir the embers of our longings into flame.
This year I’ve been swept into the warmth of the mothering of God, wooing a timid piece of myself to come out from hiding. I sort of knew that little girl was there, but because her voice was so quiet I didn’t pay her much attention.
I mistook her quietness for impotence, not realizing the little girl wielded a sword edged sharp with insecurities. The smallest incident threatens “Little Girl Blue,” the name she has assumed for almost 60 years, but I have just discovered.
If we enter fully into the sacred rhythm of the liturgical calendar the Spirit will disturb what settled beneath the debris of winter.
During one of my prayer times this week a memory from a Pennsylvania December intruded on a lovely time of worship. My brother, older by seven years, sat close to me in the back seat of the car. Our soft breathing hung in the cold air, little bits of fog danced beneath our noses. I must have drained my baby bottle, because I started to whine for more milk. The memory is thin, so I don’t really know if this is a factual account. The memory has power to it, no matter the accuracy.
Frustrated by the noise of my insistence, my Dad growled at my mother, “She’s too old for this.”
My father was probably right. I had outgrown the need for a bottle. Yet that is exactly what I wanted as I sat cuddled against my brother trying to keep warm.
My dad, a man of action, pulled the 1956 two-toned Chevy onto the side of the road, grabbed the bottle from my little hand and declared, “Enough of this.”
His man-bear body jumped out of the car, my treasure clutched in his paw. Seconds later, his other paw gathered me into his arms, his treasure cradled close to his chest. With a great heave, my bottle flew from my Dad’s grip down what seemed to my two and half year old eye, a great ravine.
And that was that.
Or was it?
As this random memory took root in my prayer, I started tending that bruised part of myself. I wrote a bit about it in last week’s blog post.
Somewhat unorthodox, my Dad’s method was meant not for harm, but for my good. That’s not, however, how Little Girl Blue integrated the event. Perhaps not as brutal an experience, all humans learn the first time the hear a “no” instead of a “yes,” that the universe does not exist to meet their every want.
We need that so we can learn to cooperate, to defer desires, to grow into mature adults and not succumb to the narcissism so rampant in our consumer culture.
Yet, the very thing we need for healthy development can also cloud our sense of our true selves, the image of God within us obscured by the wound.
So far this Lenten season has stirred my longing to live more fully aligned to God’s intentions for me. The Spirit disturbed the forgotten memory of a too strict dad forcing an innocent child to bear the weight only his desires mattered, hers literally thrown down a cliff.
Why does any of this matter? Because even though that bottle is long gone, I often feel like I don’t really matter, even though I know that I do.
We’re created to establish belief through two pathways-cognitive and experiential, that is head and heart. And only when both pathways are engaged does belief become complete and actual. ~Judith Hougen~
No matter how many Bible verses I memorize about who I am in Christ, no matter how many times my husband tells me I have value, no matter the number of cards written by friends and family that tell me how much it means to them to have me in their lives, no matter how many times I try to chastise myself into renouncing my infantile feelings, if I don’t allow my heart to experience that truth I will remain the same.
Little Girl Blue has had many years to fine tune her ability to turn a good night into a big fight with my husband. She twists innocent words into personal attacks.
I want to continue to go home to my true self, to the image God had and still has for me. As I allow the Spirit to mother the little girl whose security and comfort was torn from her hands, I am freed to become more like Jesus and less likely to distort a sideway glance into a major offense.
Some may think this a bit indulgent and self-serving. There are times when I am both of those, but this story is about the difficult and often painful process of healing. I’ve witnessed the powerful impact of those farther down their road toward wholeness. As they cooperate with God, they heal, as they heal, the world heals.
Isn’t that a worth-while fruit of Lent?