Struggle: What I learned this Lent

Now that the warm glow of Eastertide is starting fade for most, being a week and a half into the season, I’d like to share with you what I learned this Lent. In short:

I am undisciplined.

If you recall, I decided to set my sights mid-height for Lent 2015 — take on two spiritual disciplines I long to incorporate into my everyday life during Regular Time (you know, when everything at church is green). I wanted to pray morning prayer every day and fast once a week.

Not once did I manage to fast an entire day — some time around lunch I would give in. And then I fell ill, so for the last two weeks of the season I didn’t even skip breakfast. For just over half of Lent I prayed morning prayer. Then the unbearable pressure of feeling like I need to be writing, writing, writing this PhD starting pressing upon me every morning as I breakfasted. I’ve read enough monks to know that this is precisely how the tempters draw us away from prayer — the lure of the ‘important’.

I also wanted to read The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus (as mentioned here), but found that too difficult to process and apply. The sheer mental energy of my PhD has made spiritual reading a challenge, and sixth/seventh-century monastic texts even more so.

I am undisciplined.

And what is discipline for? It is for making us Christlike, right?

If I can keep Christ in my heart and love those around me as He would, and do so without these two disciplines or reading spiritual books, all the better.

And some days I can.

But most days I can’t.

Then again, not being a monk, I can tailor my daily devotional and discipline needs to my temperament and lifestyle.

So I need to think about what I can handle in the high-stress, time-consuming world of two-and-a-half-months-until-submission(!!!) — and what suits my temperament. Not what I can writer ‘clever’ things about here. Not what everyone else recommends. But what actually helps me and what I can handle without false guilt.

Time to take stock — perhaps you should, too.

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2 thoughts on “Struggle: What I learned this Lent

  1. May God bless your PhD and those who read it!

    I understand this struggle. We need to always put effort into our part of sanctification and good works for Christ, but understanding that we also aren’t attempting to join an elitist club of ascetics so that we feel like now we’ve “made it” or that we are more deserving of that which comes by Grace.

    Another note I’d like to make is that I’ve only ever succeeded at fasting when I’ve had a good reason to fast. Or, more accurately, I found fasting to be quite edifying when the fast was directed by a yearning for God’s answer to prayer or a cause that I felt needed strong petition. Since those attempts were successful, I occasionally tried to fast just to add it to my spiritual life. Therein I found it empty and often failed at lasting past dinner. I know this is just anecdotal and is could very well be a personal/state of the heart kind of thing rather than a reflection of something more universal. Food for thought (heh heh).

    • Thanks, Jon! I, too, have found fasting easier when I have some object or goal in/prayer involved when I undertake it, or when I’m praying for something going on while I fast, such as an important spiritual retreat or synod or something that to which I’ve committed prayer. I’ll chew on this food for thought as I think about how to be disciplined as I seek to be sanctified by grace!

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