“[Hope is] the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.” Chesterton
Today I’m straining my eyes, looking for the finish line. Day 32 feels like an adequate duration for Lent, right? What is so sacred about 40 days, anyways? I’m ¾ of the way there, which should qualify as close enough. At least that is what I am tempted to tell myself.
When I began this Lenten season with the idea of writing a glimpse a day, I knew I was getting in over my head. And a part of me really likes that feeling. I love how challenges draw out of me more than I realized was in there. As I began, I had in mind already, a sense of the satisfaction that would come upon completing the assignment. I looked forward to what I would learn, about myself and about God.
But that satisfaction has always been a fleeting emotion. It is like the excitement at the beginning of a semester, which disappears the moment you’re handed the syllabus and realize just how much reading lies ahead. What have I gotten myself into?
Because today I’m tired of writing. The sentences come out slower. I press the delete key more than the spacebar. Sentences appear and then disappear with a frown. Writing is so much work!
I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s book on writing, and, in a chapter called ‘Short Assignments’, she gives an illustration from which the book derives its name. Her brother has put off an assignment for the last 3 months that is due the next day. It is a paper on birds and he is sitting at the table with his head in his arms, surrounded by open books, completely overwhelmed. His father enters the room and says to him, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Or, in my case, “blog by blog.”
Today, I realize that the end is in sight, and yet far enough away that I cannot slow my pace. Nor can I begin to celebrate the finish without jeopardizing my ability to complete this last lap. I must continue step by step, one foot after the other.
A new sort of hope surfaces at moments like these. As uncomfortable as it is to feel dependent on fresh glimpses from God, an expectancy begins to rise to the surface. In order to finish, God is going to have to show up. And isn’t that the point, after all? Not writing, or fasting, or self-discipline. Because Lent is about encountering God in the desert. And, as He said to Jeremiah, in the wilderness we will find favor and rest.
In many ways, today is the day that my true Lenten journey begins. The supplies and resources I’ve snuck in with me are now gone. All my initial ideas that I jotted down have been used up. But my eyes are open and my ears are listening. I’m not giving up. So here is the blog for day 32. From here til 40 I’ll be taking it blog by blog. I’m excited to see where the last lap leads me.