Having anxiety can make participating in Lent difficult.
My character perfection tendencies go into hyper-drive, and I am in a constant state of wondering just how well I’m doing with this whole “faith” thing.
Have I repented? If I have, how will I know?
Is giving up Netflix to read books from a few #BlackLivesMatter movement guides going to wake me up for real?
Am I good? Am I forgiven? Am I made new?
Will Easter be enough for me, my sins, and I?
Will this journey be enough for me?
I met with my spiritual director Linda this last week. She asked me how my “faith life” is going, which is such a difficult question for me. I’m never quite sure how to answer it, because I’m so anxious and such a perfectionist, I always think it’s not going as well as it could be.
So I told her I started meditating in the mornings. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, so it’s not really a Lenten practice, but I’ll go out on a limb and assume it’s a part of my “faith life” as much as giving up Netflix and reading books by black writers.
But meditation is so hard for me, because my mind is so busy, and honestly, going deeper into myself, the sacred spaces God calls me to examine and dwell in, scares me.
What will I find within me?
Will there be love and acceptance? Anger and hatred? Firm kindness, or judgment?
After I shared these concerns, Linda talked to me about the concepts of “original sin” versus “original blessing.”
Original sin begins with the assumption that all humans are made sinful (which is confusing because if God is good and we are made in God’s image, so what does being inherently sinful say about God’s nature?). According to this doctrine, we tell ourselves over and over “I’m not good. I cannot to be who I am. I must strive every day to reach an unattainable perfection that is unlike me.”
I was not made in blessing. There is nothing good to which I can return. There is nothing towards which I can keep striving, because I will always have that sinful nature in me, even as I aspire to be holy. The journey becomes tedious, exhausting, and even pointless.
If we messed up in Eden, how could we possibly make anything better outside of it?
This theology asks: What good are we? What good is God if God made us this way?
When we remember we are made in God’s image, when we remind ourselves our original creation was one of blessing and joy, when we remember the unbound, unconditional love God has for us, we remember who we are meant to be.
We remember we are made to love God and our brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings. We are made for more than our worst sins, our cruelest words and deeds, and our most embarrassing moments. We are made in a holy image, and even when this image is smudged, attacked, or hidden beneath our deepest wounds, it remains within us.
This original blessing, this uttermost essence of ours, is who we are, and we live life and seek God’s help to not only remember this, but to be this holy image in a painful, beautiful world.
This theology asks: How can we return to the good God made inherent in us? How do we continue to live out the Love within us with God’s help?
I took this theology to my meditation time the day after our meeting.
I sat on a yoga mat in the basement, facing my fiance’s guitars. His area is the tidier spot in the basement.
I breathed in and thought of my congressional representative, over whose comments about issues I became so furious. I breathed out and honored the blessing of his creation and the image of God inherent in him.
I repeated this process for the President, his cabinet members, and people who drive me crazy on a regular basis.
I repeated this process for my fiance, my parents, and my youth group.
For good measure, I repeated this process for myself.
Meditating on our God-given image changed the way I look at and even engage with people. It also reminds me while I am called to show the perfect love which casts out fear to the people who deny justice and mercy, this same, perfect love doesn’t cast out frustration, sadness, and the need for accountability.
Because I honor the image of God in myself, I honor it in others.
And because I honor this image of beauty, love, and holiness, which is inherent to every single one of us, I will continue to keep calling out the times I and others act in ways contrary to our holy nature.
So I keep praying. I keep remembering the image of God, first in myself, and in others, the ones I adore and the ones I abhor.
And my prayer for myself and for us is this:
You are made to love. How are you showing it?