I could have titled this post any number of other things, like “How My Lent Is Going So Far”, or “When You Say ‘Lent’ and God Says…’Hammock’?”, or “My Accidental Lenten Fast”.
Because in case you haven’t noticed, God put me in a bit of an unexpected writing and social media time out this Lent.
It wasn’t so much about intentionally pursuing silence as that my life just really needed me to be fully present. I could have pushed myself to write, made it an endeavor in discipline and being purposeful, and been fairly hard on myself when I failed at it. After all, that is a very natural reaction for my striving heart.
But I didn’t feel the anxiety to push, to force productivity. And it is because God prepared my heart ahead of time, so that even though the break was unexpected, the response He was asking me to give was not.
You see, in the days before Lent, when the all the world it seemed was beginning to swirl with conversations about fasting and giving up and sacrificing and ashes, I found myself on a beautiful beach with a dear friend at my side. Unplugged and embracing rest, beauty, and real connection. Being humbled by the way I am loved.
She surprised me. Sent me a note to meet her at the beach. And I did.
As our time came a close, I sat on the porch praying one morning and asked God what He was asking of me this Lent. “What do I need to fast from, Lord?” And then I begged grace, because I am notoriously terrible at fasting.
It pains me to know so much good is won in fasting, because I lose. Every time. I could do what kids sometimes do and joke that I am going to spend Lent fasting from something I don’t even like, and I guarantee you that I would crave it relentlessly and eat it or drink it over and over again.
But God was just quiet. He gave no response to my fasting question. Instead, what I heard was the sound of His breath.
Washing over the ocean waves and wafting through the rustling leaves, I could hear God simply breathing beauty, breathing rest over me.
And training my eyes and my thoughts over and over again on the hammock draped across the porch over our condo.
Now I know to most people, hammocks are a consummate symbol of rest and relaxation. You would’ve gotten God’s message right away had He been showing you a hammock. And you probably would have gladly embraced the idea.
I have a “thing” about hammocks. It goes back to that fear of my heaviness, I guess. I am a little scared of them. I panic that the thing is going to fall or that I am going to get myself all nestled in, lay back, and find my bum dragging sluggishly across the ground below me.
I have a fear that I am too heavy to be held. To be cradled.
And it is apparently as much spiritual as it is physical.
So when I asked God how to fast this Lent, He responded by breathing slow over me instead. And pointing to a hammock.
He asked me to trust Him. To lean all the weight of my sinful, tired, striving, broken self into Him, and trust that His love and His mercy would hold.
That like the ropes that make up a hammock, His graciousness could stretch to accommodate me, to give me rest from whatever it is I bring into my leaning, no matter how heavy.
And so I am practicing leaning this Lent. Slowing rather than fasting. Being present to life and what it is asking of me in the moment, even if I have no outward performance to show for it.
I am not striving to get holiness right this Lent. I am resting in the love of a God who already made it right for me.
I am learning that very often the most holy thing I can do is let Him be Holy. Sovereign. And in loving control of my life, my needs, and my desires.
That surprise beach trip was followed by time in the States surrounded by friends. One on one time with the teen who I left in someone else’s hands just a few days ago when I returned to Costa Rica. Time where I left my other loves to be present to the task God had before me in the moment. Another goodbye to my precious mama. Another realization that “home” for me is made up of a million welcoming thresholds, none of which are actually mine.
And do you know what I found got me through it?
Breathing. And remembering the breath of God that moves the oceans and rustles the leaves and restfully sways the hammock from side to side.
And in complete control.
So this is Lent for me.
Not fasting but slowing to the sound of His Holy Exhale over me.
Trusting that I can lean into Him and be held.