Confession. Yeah, it’s been awhile since I’ve been. I know. I know. It’s Lent. And a Year of Mercy. I know that too. But… Hey, I have my reasons why I haven’t been in a couple years. They aren’t particularly good reasons, but they’re mine.
But I decided that maybe this year for Lent, I might actually try living the penance I’ve been given more than once and by several different confessors: to lighten up on myself, even just a little bit. That’s really not so easy for me to do but there have been days when I’ve managed to pull it off. I actually let myself skip a couple of minor homework assignments in spite of the ding it might put in my grade. Yeah – me – the perfectionist. Crazy right? There was so much going on and trying to juggle it all was making life too crazy. So I actually let an assignment go. More importantly, I let an assignment go and didn’t beat up on myself for it. That’s the hard part. To simply let it go. And I can’t say I’ve completely let it go and never looked back. I still know the grades in all three of my classes averaged out to two decimal places. But I also know that when one of those classes is a bit lower than it could have been, that I’m not going to freak out over it or drive myself batty trying to fix it. It’s just going to be what it is and I will be okay with that.
Part of the juggling act the last two weeks included my younger son, Eugene, needing to get glasses. He only needs them for distance but that will mean wearing them to school. He loves being able to see stuff across the room and he hates wearing glasses. During that ride home from the eye doctor, wearing his new glasses for the first time, his non-stop running commentary was something I won’t soon forget. A snippet of that conversation went something like this:
Eugene: But if I take these off, now I can’t see.
Me: You couldn’t see anyway. That’s why you got glasses.
Eugene: Ack!! I’m cursed!! I can’t not wear them!!
Painful grammar aside, I know what he means. Sometimes, the way we see things changes and to go back to seeing them the old way wouldn’t make a lick of sense. Kind of like me finally seeing that my whole world isn’t going to go to hell in a hand-basket because I allowed myself to be a normal, imperfect human being. That can’t be unseen. And I know that because I tried. Yes. Really. And I’m adding that to the list of things I will no beat up on myself for doing and let that be what it is.
So what about Confession? Lent isn’t over yet. I’ll get there. I just need to let go of my not-particularly-good reasons. For Christmas, I bought myself an Anglican rosary. The story behind that will be another post for another time. But for Lent, the prayer that I have prayed most often on those beads is from Julian of Norwich. All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.
Day 2 of the New Year. The hangovers have lifted and thus begins the onslaught of New Year/New Me social media posts. The ephemeral week between Christmas and New Year’s with its odd work and school schedules gave us a break from real life and it’s so easy to see all the ways we could be better, our lives could be better and huge changes all seem possible and within reach. It may sound cynical, but I’m not that into the whole resolution mentality. I always find the whole New Year’s Eve thing with all its glitter and fakery to be empty and fairly depressing. By January 2, the glitter has been swept up and dumped in the nearest garbage can and reality is poised to return first thing Monday morning. And so we find the need to post our resolutions on social media in hopes that doing so will keep us accountable and/or in hopes that someone will take the journey with us.
I spent decades of my life wondering if I would ever be good enough, if I would ever measure up. I was in constant competition with a ghost who couldn’t be beat. And for what? It didn’t make me a better person. It made me sad, lonely, and angry. So I spent the last few years resolved not to get sucked into the whole resolution nonsense ever again. I’m done with the whole idea that if I only fix [fill in the blank] that life will somehow be better. But this past year or two, I’ve softened a bit. I know I’m not perfect and at the same time, I know I have tendency to expect perfection from myself. And maybe, just maybe, I need to find the middle ground of simply being human.
It seems kind of odd to me that we end the year immediately after celebrating the birth of Jesus. We took a truly new beginning and made it an ending. Then we took an artificial man-made new beginning that seems hellbent on glossing over and/or forgetting the past and put that at the head of our calendar. Jesus’ birth changed all of human history but it didn’t happen all at once. Think about that. Jesus came into human existence as an infant. He didn’t walk out of the stable a week later and start preaching parables. His first new year was spent learning how to talk, how to walk, how to feed himself, and he spent the rest of his life learning what it was to be fully human, all the while being fully divine. Why do we so easily toss aside that idea of infancy and childhood a week after celebrating his birth? Are we that afraid of the humanity of Jesus that we’d rather ignore it entirely in favor of his divinity?
The images of Jesus learning to coo and giggle, and to toddle along, catching himself on Mary’s skirts to keep from toppling over should be ones we consider. If God himself learned to be human one little developmental milestone at time, building each year on the lessons of the one which preceded it, why do we seem so determined to start over fresh and new ever time we buy a new calendar. Why do we constantly need to reinvent ourselves every single year?
I rang in 2016 but there will be no New Me. Just me. Learning to be me. Building on yesterday. And I’m more likely to need to ease up on myself than to hold myself accountable. And if I need someone to walk that journey with, I don’t need to look far. He’s already walking it with me.