As the meagreness of Lent flows into Easter joy and abundance, God turns my head backwards to see how far she (God, that is) and I have come together. Without is a four-part blog post series of theological reflection upon my Lenten fasts. Like a prickly pear blooming in the harsh desert climate, O how God’s handiwork is often most clearly on display in bereft times.
Although it has been six weeks only, Ash Wednesday seems like a lifetime ago. I love Lent. I relish in this season of limits — limits set for the sole purpose of connecting or reconnecting with God. February 13, 2013 found me ready to dig in, as each Ash Wednesday does. I had a plan. I knew how I would fast, and I knew what disciplines I would add to draw me into deeper communion with God.
I didn’t expect the silence, though. I never dreamed God would take the Muse away from me. I wanted to write. I tried to write. I began forming outlines for blog posts in my head, only to ram into dead-end after dead-end. (I guess my hard head serves some purpose, after all.) An invisible force field surrounded my computer, or I at least that’s what I told myself in an effort to explain the odd phenomenon. Writing is perhaps my strongest spiritual charism. There had to be a reason for my utter lack of desire to exercise it, even for the building up of the church.
My youngest daughter’s Kindergarten teacher has a gentle and loving way of getting her class’ attention when they’ve gotten off track (as 6-year-olds are wont to do). “Hocus pocus,” she says. “Everybody focus,” the children respond as they settle back into their seats, cease their side conversations, and stop wiggling. Okay, some of the wiggling lingers on. But, all eyes are on the teacher, and she is able to continue with the lesson at hand. Drama, threats, and shouting not necessary.
Unbeknownst to me, God whispered, “Hocus pocus” on Ash Wednesday as she ushered my Muse away for a six-week vacation. I can see now that I had lost my focus.
Why do I write? Typically I answer this question as robotically as a pageant contestant who has memorized her speaking points. I paraphrase the Westminster Shorter Catechism question and answer one because I love it. (Editorial note: I am not in a glass house throwing stones at pageant contestants. I used to be one myself, memorized speaking points and all.)
I write to glorify God and enjoy her forever through my work.
Really? God asked during my divinely appointed Lenten fast from writing.
In the open space afforded by my writing hiatus, God took me up to a high place and showed me the past 18 months of my writing life. Sure, there were plenty of God glorifying times. I lost my way, though, and anchored myself not in God, but in my writing platform.
My writing became primarily about the numbers. I wrote for readers, shares, retweets, likes on my Facebook writer’s page and comments. God could be tugging at me to wax theological, but I’d drift into self-revealing waters. Vulnerable posts get more reads, likes, and comments. God knows this, right?
On days when I published a post, I was a maniac with my smart phone. I wish I had a nickel for every time I checked WordPress to see how many views and unique visitors I had, pulled up Twitter to see how many retweets and new followers I had, or looked on Facebook to see how many comments I had about my post. (And darn those people who comment on Facebook and not here on my blog! Don’t they know that editors, agents, and publishers need to see a commenting frenzy???) My daughters would have a good start to their college fund if that were the case.
I got on the self-promoting hamster exercise wheel and ran my feet off. How many social media sites do I need to be on? I buried my nose in Writer’s Digest, and on agents’ blogs, seeking to follow each step of their “How to Build a Platform and Get Published” articles. Surely if I did each thing to the T, my desired book deal would fall out of the sky.
I put my daughters on hold to check my stats and reply to commenters. I saw God’s world through the narrow lens of potential blog posts or article topics. Colors were dulled, flavors were bland, and wonder at God’s work was reduced to practical application.
Then Lent came. And the words of the Lord through the prophet Hosea cut through my flesh to my bone to restore my sensation.
what should I do with you?” asks the LORD.
“For your love vanishes like the morning mist
and disappears like dew in the sunlight.
I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces—
to slaughter you with my words,
with judgments as inescapable as light.
I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.
But like Adam, you broke my covenant
and betrayed my trust” (Hosea 6: 4-7, NLT).
Hocus pocus. Angie lost her focus.
A writing fast was not in my Lenten plan. But it proved to be the perfect nectar for my parched, over-platformed soul.
“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” ~ Mother Theresa