Lent: Act of Faith, Act of Presence

amywink February 24th, 2018

“For those who are authentically called to this profession, spiritual profits are enough.” John Gardner

Today is the 12th day of my Lenten practice of writing every day. I am not a writer who has ever written every day, as is often suggested as a good practice. Writers write, so write every day, create a habit in your writing so you do not have to wait for inspiration. Just keep writing; the ideas will come eventually. Just keep writing; it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an idea.

This has not worked for me. It may work for some. For me, it can flip a dangerous switch and I fall into rote production, paying more attention to the end result than the practice–I have written words today. I have achieved the goal. Check. Done. — I lose the reverence for the writing. I become more agitated and anxious, thinking of too much of the end result. Thinking too much of the outside, the external, the product. Thinking of what looks like writing, but is not writing; what looks like faith, but is not faith.

This is not how I am a writer. I lose the joy, the peace. I turn and walk away from the beautiful contemplative conversation with God.

I came perilously close to that turn on Wednesday and at the moment, I thought, “Oh, you should quit. What were you thinking?” I could have easily chosen some other Lent practice, something more recognizable like fasting, a something I could have given up–chocolate, Facebook, tv, clutter, rehearsing past events–because there are plenty of suggestions out there.

But I didn’t want to quit. I had thought about this very carefully and chosen this practice partly because it was difficult. I’d never been so intentional before (a daily practice) and because it seemed to represent the exact thing Lent is supposed to do, turn us toward God. When I am writing, I am most at peace, always in the presence of God.

Instead, I had to turn again and in so doing, confront the other thing we are supposed to do during Lent, the practice of self-examination. As a person who is a high achiever (though I forget), and a person who is also self-aware, I recognize this razor’s edge between internal and external motivation. I know my external motivator is an idea of unachievable perfection on which I will slice myself open if I come too close. And I have come close many times. I used to describe myself as not competitive, but now I know myself to be dangerously competitive, the kind of competitive that turns a joyful practice into the always impossible, the certain failure. It is the kind of competitive that destroys, the kind of competitive that decides to make things harder and harder so as if to prove my own worthlessness. It is an important thing to know about myself. It is an important thing from which to turn.

So, I turned. I opened a conversation. I listened. I wrote. I wrote as an act of faith, an act of presence. My practice changed and I remembered what I have always known about my writing, what I have always tried to practice, that I love the work of writing. That is enough. I owe this more reverent practice to my reader, so that I, imperfect, may reveal what is beautiful in this flawed and difficult world.

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