We have just concluded one of the most marvelous and magical Carnival seasons in recent memory. Our Saint’s Super Bowl win morphed into Mardi Gras, and the period of Lent gracefully centers us again. The 40-day prelude to Easter is one traditionally celebrated by Christians as a time of sacrifice and penance (doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?). But both believers and non-believers alike can benefit from taking time away from the normal calendar for renewal. There is a great deal that can be gained from taking stock of our personal and professional lives. It can begin simply by asking these questions: Where am I today in terms of my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health? Am I moving in the world the way that I want to? Have I identified my hopes and dreams in such clarity that I can appreciate their arrival? The reflective exercise to these questions can be your Lenten season, and actually quite Ignatian in practice.
Part of my Lenten practice includes reflecting on issues that sometimes hold me back; for example, the difference between being in control and having self-control.
I like neat edges… pencils that are sharp… being on time. I hate loose ends. Dirty dishes are not meant for the sink, they are meant to go inside the dishwasher. Books on a coffee table need to be straightened. Pillows by their very nature should be fluffed. Project dates need to be met and classes are not meant to be missed. (Yes, Dr. Bourque, I realize there are medications for this!) Control. Who has it? Who wants it?
Most of the time, needing to control my environment simply makes me feel safe in the world; that’s what “order” does for me. It’s why “neatness” counts! And yet, when spontaneity, hilarity, and creative messiness find their way into my life, I absolutely can surrender to the thrill of adventure. In a similar vein, when it isn’t fun, and life throws a dangerous curve ball, I have a harder time with “going with the flow”. The word surrender all of a sudden takes on new meaning, and I am not sure I can do it in the face of my fears. How do we handle the differences between being/feeling out of control and owning our sense of self-control?
I propose it is two-fold: playing to your strengths and having faith.
In Strength’s Quest language, my number one strength, strategic, always kicks in. Plain and simple: I make a plan, share the plan with those that I trust, review the plan, and revise. In most every interaction that I have personally and professionally, I see a path and I forge ahead. The path has been right, wrong, and sometimes as Frost says “I have taken the one less traveled by, and it has made all the difference.”
My Lenten reflections on “control” are in these 3 lessons:
- Trust your faith. I continually remember that God has brought me this far and hasn’t failed me yet.
- There is often a plan we cannot see no matter how strategic we are… the gift God offers sometimes comes in very unexpected ways.
- This line from the Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers–”I thank God for unanswered prayers”–reminds us that God listens, collects our tears, and His plan is always better than the one we’ve imagined.
As the season of Lent continues onward to Easter and spring renewal, I wish you a season of freedom, of empowerment and the willingness to let God surprise you.