Lenten journal: Getting adjusted, flying right

Leap Day

Leap day … a fitting time to be thinking about straightening up and flying right. Well, flying right, anyway.

This morning’s pages brought unbidden the phrase a day for adjusting. I don’t know about you, but it’s quite frequently a good day for adjusting in my life: adjusting what I’m doing, adjusting to what I’m doing, adjusting to what I’m not doing.

Which doesn’t mean I’m crazy about it. Brings to mind the Iris Dement version of that old Sanford Massengale song, “I don’t want to get adjusted“:

In this world we have our trials
Sometimes lonesome, sometimes blue
But the hope of life eternal
Makes all old hopes brand new

And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world …
I’ve got a home so much better
And I’m gonna go there sooner or later
And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world …

Lord, I’m growing old and weary
And there’s no place that feels like home
Saviour come, my soul and ferry
To where I never more will roam

And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world,
I’ve got a home so much better
And I’m gonna go there sooner or later
And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world …

Aside from the emphasis on bye-and-bye as opposed to the here-and-now, this song says it perfectly.

I know there is peace in wanting what I have, but I don’t want to get adjusted to not having the community I dream of, the work I feel made to do, the capability to help support my family, the sense of fulfilling (my? God’s?) purpose. I don’t want to get adjusted to the way my world is, such that I give up on what is a long time in coming.

Where I do need adjusting, though, is in how I live in the time between the dream and the reality — because this time between is reality, all I am going to have. Okay, I just can’t say all I’m going to have; I have more hope than that. But, for now, this is what I have.

This is without a church that feels like a place I can worship in spirit and in truth.

This is without work that lets me bring all of myself to it.

This is without community that feels whole and round and challenging and as diverse as God’s creation.

So, given this, how do I live?

I have to do better than I have done. Of late, the bitterness is creeping in, coloring everything with a negativity that’s like wearing dark glasses all the time. I have been growing cynical, tending toward judgmental thoughts and even comments. I am even beginning to feel hopeless that I can change, either my situation or my self.

I’d like to say “that’s not me.” But right now, I guess it is. I don’t want it to be. And yet, with my dark glasses on, I feel equally powerless to change.

Perfect timing, right? It is the Lenten season, after all. The spiritual discipline of self-examination is part of it.

My squirming instinct is that I want out of myself, out of my concerns and my ruts, my fears and shrinking faith. This is probably a helpful instinct, actually. Every time I remember the commanding invitation to love my neighbor, and find a way to do that, life feels better, because it is better. I have pulled the stopper on God’s love, and let it flow into the world again, where it waters dry fields and soothes parched throats. Life has a chance, once more.

I have to acknowledge, though, that I am having a hard time staying in that place. Surely something in me needs to shift, to break, to change, to grow … to be adjusted. Like a wheel out of alignment, I am wobbling. And probably driving the whole car and everyone in it crazy.

Even though what I am dealing with are surely #firstworldproblems, I have no doubt that they have grown beyond me, once again. And although I don’t think I have left God as my last resort — these have been years of prayer and seeking — I do feel at the point where God is my only resort. All I know to do at this point is to rely on what Genesis calls “the everlasting covenant” in this week’s lectionary texts.

The Psalmist sang that “future generations will be told about God, and proclaim God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that God has done it.” That’s me. I am among those who were not yet born when God made God’s promises, to remain in covenant with us forever. My only way of getting right and being right (to be “reckoned righteous”) is to practice the truth of that, even when I have a hard time believing I am beloved, and that God is in covenant with me.

In a world where billions are born into a poverty that automatically lays a cross on their shoulders, I feel ashamed for not bearing up better under my light burdens.

I pray for mercy to relieve this shame, for grace to restore compassion for self and others, the compassion that trues my life and brings it back into balance. When I can’t seem to find or have or build the church I want, let me have the discipline to show up on Sunday somewhere. When I can’t seem to find the place to fulfill my vocation, let me do the work I have to do as well as I can, work a little harder to bring something extra to those I teach and serve and listen to. When I grieve the lack of community that feels like the dream I treasure, let the light of that dream shape my own life, at least.

Let my heart leap again, Beloved, and not just for a day.

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