For the last five years or so I have made a conscious decision to give something up for Lent.
Not food, drink, or material items, but something that I enjoy emotionally yet might keep me from connecting spiritually.
One year it was giving up a criticism. Another year it was a specific area of resentment.
I try to keep it real and psychologically meaningful, endeavouring to discipline myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
I was at St. Brendan's in the City in DC for worship last Sunday evening and the announcements were made about upcoming Ash Wednesday. I silently surrendered to the Spirit that if there were something I needed to give up, it would be made known to me.
I should know by now not to pray those kinds of prayers. They tend to get answered. And quickly.
Nothing came to me. Yay! Relief! The best kind of silence. Nothing to work on.
For me, it sometimes feels easier to maintain spiritual status quo than to enter into a greater sense of mindfulness. I was happy to enter into the Lenten season just as I had entered into the New Year: keep things going strong, no major adjustments.
Then, I read it Wednesday morning.
Right there on my Facebook feed. A friend had posted a status update about the attitude of her heart she had worked on the previous year. I knew it was for me. She talked about her need to be right.
You see, I too have a great need to be right. (I know, you are shocked.)
The problem is, I often am, and that's not always beneficial for me.
I try to reason through my positions, provide a logical framework with good evidence to back up my case. When I'm in doubt, I try to respond with "you may be right", actually giving myself a little more room to be right or perhaps diffuse a situation where my ego might be bruised.
I suppose some of this compulsive "rightness' come from my shadow self--some egoic, self-loathing part of my soul that relishes the darkness of shame as opposed to the spiritual light of day. I think it's the part that Apostle Paul called the "flesh". Not physical flesh, but dark parts of the soul that keep me spiritually enslaved.
When I hit a shame hole, those shadows take over. I immediately run to prove my point, defend my position, hide my vulnerability, or validate my existence.
What a tiresome way to live, constantly on the defense!
I immediately texted my friend Richard, the rector of St. Brendan's. I knew he would think this a ridiculous idea and smack the spiritual sense back into me.
Me: For Lent, giving up my great need to be right.
Some time passes, I'm off the hook. Thank, God.
Richard: That is beautiful and got me thinking.
Prolonged pause on my part, need to talk him out of this.
Me: It's gonna be tough. Dying. Ugh.
Richard: Dying always is!
Some help he was. I was hoping he would tell me how utterly ridiculous of an idea this was.
Time to find a new priest, I thought. A mega-church pastor would never agree with him on this.
But I knew Richard was right. This is what I need in this season of my life.
So for Lent 2014, I commit to give up my great need to be right. This doesn't mean I can't be right. It just means if I am, I don't have to express it in every situation--or at all.
It also means I can say when I'm not right. Better yet, I don't even have to be right. My rightness does not determine my worth as a human being nor my self-esteem.
I can give up the need for self-validation, for proving my point, for justifying my position. I can be vulnerable. I can be silent. That's okay.
In the last 24 hours we have fed nearly 2000 men, women, and children.
For many of these people, this was the most substantial meal they've had in weeks.
There was such celebration--not just for the food but also because my father came. It's been six years since his health allowed him to travel to Haiti. The people celebrated him and talked about how much they prayed for him over the last several years. That is a blessing.
Coming here is no vacation. But it's very rewarding. Once I push past the oppressive heat, dusty roads, and feelings of exhaustion to become fully present, I see great hope and the possibility of positive change.
It's not without challenges, but nothing worth working for ever is.
Sometimes when I am in Haiti I feel like I'm cleaning up from the destructive effects of Europeans imperialism. That , along with Western colonialism in my opinion, has in many ways contributed to generational, systemic oppression in this country.
I'm not sure Western, missionary efforts have helped to undo this either. While much church-based aid has come into this country, it is said that if all evangelical statistics were compiled, the entire population of Haiti world be converted to evangelicalism several times over.
We know this is not the case. One only see the abject poverty of collective body and spirit in Haiti to recognize that the way the Good News is proclaimed here is not exactly working.
Clearly something is wrong. There is systemic corruption that is perpetuated politically, economically, and religiously as well.
For me as a follower of the way of Jesus, there is a responsibility to work for social justice and change. Giving clean water and food, providing education, and assisting people to help themselves are key elements of reversing the unfortunate consequences of Western colonialism and ineffective missionary work.
I believe part of this happens when we offer the poor the opportunity to think for themselves. When we give people the permission to think different about God and life, they are more easily able to experiment and change the ways that are not working.
For me, this happens every time I am able to speak in a Haitian school or church and effect the mindsets that keep the culture on bondage.
This morning I taught 22 Christian leaders from a psychological and spiritual perspective how to break familial, systemic oppression. The thoughtful and provocative questions they posed demonstrated to me again that Haitians are ready for a different perspective on life and God.
I'm grateful that the Haitians with whom I work are fearless in their efforts of working for a change of mind.
You can probably tell by this post, I am challenged this weekend. In my opinion, post-earthquake Haiti needs more than another evangelistic crusade. She needs more than another handout from white missionaries. She needs innovative, spiritual thought that will honor the Haitian culture while empowering the people to change their Land.
Today I remind myself that everything I have need of is near me; I only need access it.
I set my intention and release my faith to live from a place of abundance, even if I feel I'm surrounded by scarcity.
I embrace the moment knowing that really all I have is this moment. The future does not exist yet. So I need not fear or forbode it.
I understand that I don't have to solve every problem that comes my way. I can choose my battles. I can choose my projects too. I get to prioritize.
Sometimes it's best to sit and observe and then make a wise, strategic choice when I feel more confident. I don't have to choose under presure or distress. I can pause, breathe, collect myself and then re-engage.
That which I have need of comes to me.
Give me eyes to see, ears to listen, hands to work, feet to go the distance, and a heart that is always open to engage, receive, and give again.
I first discovered her TED talk and books a few years ago. Her work on shame resilience and vulnerability immediately resonated with me. I began implementing it in my personal life and clinical work whenever possible.
Today we watched this video on The Power of Empathy. It's only a few minutes long and worth watching.