I decided to give up distraction for Lent. (Queue laughter). I had just started to notice how often I was distracting myself with social media, TV, food, or anything else to keep from engaging in how I was actually feeling. I came home one day and said basically out loud to myself, “I just need something mindless.” I caught myself mid-remote and thought, this cannot be helpful.
So I am trying to give up distraction. This is in no way measurable or practical, but it is real. When I sense myself going to something because I want to tune out, I choose not to do that thing. This looks like sitting in silence doing “nothing” a lot of the time. It means choosing to do something productive over doing something lazy. You know me, I’m all about self-care, but sometimes binge watching a show you’ve already seen all the way through three times is not actually caring for yourself at all.
Instead I’m eating breakfast. Without my phone. And I am cleaning my kitchen while listening to worship music instead of being a couch potato. I am looking out the car window instead of scrolling social media.
Here is what I am learning. When we choose not to be numb, we feel a whole lot more. (DUH.) But really. When I deliberately choose to feel whatever I am feeling rather than stuff it down and pretend to be fine while eating a whole bag of M&M’s (ok fine I still ate the M&M’s), I realize how much I actually feel. So yes, this Lent practice is actually quite hard and sometimes painful.
We know this lesson and we talk about it all the time. You cannot numb the bad feelings without also numbing the good. If we want to feel JOY, we have to be willing to feel the sadness, loneliness, sorrow, etc. that comes with life. I, personally, kind of hate this. I would like to choose the emotions I feel. As I get to know myself better and better, I realize that I am capable of feeling a wider range of emotions than I maybe have ever let myself feel. And this includes the hard ones.
I had this really beautiful picture a few weeks ago that keeps teaching me so many amazing things. I was imagining Mary at the tomb, crying because her friend and Savior was not only dead, but his body was missing. And I don’t know about you, but I typically picture her with like one pretty tear streaming down her cheek, the way actresses somehow look fine while they are being broken up with in a movie. But let’s really imagine this. Mary was a strong, dedicated woman. She loved Jesus. He worked miracles in her life. She was not just crying. I picture her ugly crying. I pictured her with her face to the ground, maybe pounding the dirt with her fists (the way I was that morning for my own reasons). If she had worn mascara it would have been all down her cheeks and that tough woman would not have cared. And in that moment, in that deep grief, Jesus came and was with her. He was not overwhelmed by her emotion. He was not turned off by it. He did not tell her, “Get it together, woman!”, the way we tend to tell ourselves. But He came and reassured her and calmed all her fears. He mended her sadness and turned it to celebration. He allowed her to feel the full range of emotions but did not leave her in her sorrow. I have to believe that He can do that for me.
Imagine if instead of visiting the tomb that morning Mary has said, “Nah, instead of engaging in my grief I’m just going to distract myself with some baking/cleaning/whatever Mary’s distraction of choice might have been.” What if she had not acknowledged the deep pain she was feeling? What if she had tried to numb it instead? The experience she would have missed! The story we never would have heard! That is heartbreak of a whole different level.
I wrote earlier this year that my word for 2018 is congruency. To practice this with you today, I will tell you that the last six months of my life have been intensely hard and intensely beautiful. A sweet friend helped me realize that those things can coexist. That any day, or really any moment, can hold both of those deep descriptors. I have been stretched and challenged in ways I haven’t experienced before. I have walked through grief for much longer than I would have imagined. I have felt lonely and I have felt carried. I have learned to be loved by people and that I can be loved even when I have nothing to offer. I have celebrated things tiny and big with people who bring me deep JOY. I have wept with Jesus and I have laughed with Jesus. Life is not always good or bad, easy or hard, it is so often a messy mix of all the feelings and experiences. I have maybe never related to the phrase “roll with the punches” more than in this season, and in that I have leaned on Jesus in a whole new way because I sometimes cannot stand on my own. I have learned, like this song says, that “what is true in the light is still true in the dark.” The Lord’s character never changes.
Another recent post I wrote was about examining my life for what it needs more and less of. So right now, I’d say less distraction and more grave-sitting. More acknowledging the actual circumstances I am in and feeling what I need to feel. Jesus allows space for that, and so I need to do the same. And, when He encourages me to, I will turn my sorrow into dancing and choose celebration over sadness.
So this Lent season I am choosing to say goodbye to distraction and instead leaning into the real, raw, hard emotions I am needing to experience. I’d encourage you to do the same.
What is your distraction of choice?
What emotions are you possibly avoiding?
What would it look like for you to let Jesus sit with you at the grave – the place of loss, sorrow, heartbreak in your own life? What does He say to you?