Of Wolves and Tax Forms: A Lenten Devotion

“There are wolves at my door, Father. Wolves that exist, and ones I imagine. They […]

Lynn MacDougall / 3.11.13

875929001229“There are wolves at my door, Father. Wolves that exist, and ones I imagine. They want to come in, and rend me.  They snuff at the foot of the door, and paw at the windows. This little hovel I fill threatens to give way to their press. I am never free from them, or from the worry of them. When I sleep, I run from them, and I feel their breath on my face. While I am awake,  I give myself over to thoughts of them. Some of them are real … sickness, pain, fear, hurry, rejection, death.  Some of them I have constructed … they do not have names.” (Anonymous)

Lent 2013. This is what I read most mornings when I wake. I give up looking up nonsense on my iPhone in the morning during Lent and actually read the Bible. Two years ago I tried to give up anxiety: alas, no success. Last year I reduced to the above and had hoped to develop a habit but it didn’t “take,” so I’m at it again.

As a Presbyterian, my circle hasn’t much heeded Lent. To be honest I wasn’t cognizant at all until Micaela, at age 11 or 12, decided our family should observe Advent and Lent. Now Lent is my “favorite” time of the year. I crave it all year long – the intense focus on Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection and, in that, the honest look at oneself, one’s ferocious and Christ-less self-absorption.

mick-stevens-free-floating-anxiety-magnified-200-000-000-times-new-yorker-cartoonFor some reason, Lent 2013 has been particularly bleak, almost violently so.  In my head constantly are words of the old hymn “weary of earth, myself and sin” but forgetting the next phrase, “Jesus I come to thee.” Lots of minor sicknesses. Federal taxes but no tax forms and delayed financial aide. Lots of trauma for my college “kids”–breakups, friendship angst, depression. I’ve been torn up over theological strife, with friends and other Christians. My husband has had little work and a lot of anxiety and self-doubt, meaning I do, too. Sadness and uncertainty about our future and the big picture of our lives. The endless string of wolves lining up outside our door.

Rather than go on and on and on… I’d like to quote more of the article/prayer started above. A friend gave us a copy of this during a Christmas visit. He said a student wrote it as a devotional so I guess it is anonymous. But it’s impacted me more than anything else I’ve read this season. So – anonymous student out there in the world – if you read Mbird – thank you.

“My heart is not at rest, these days. I look back and forth, eager for distraction and busyness and effort – I am afraid to stop moving, thinking, wanting, reasoning. My mind hums with the drug of tomorrow, and the echo of yesterday. I run from the wolves. Doing, thinking, racing and outstripping my ability and capacity until it is distorted – stretched and warped until I don’t recognize my own needs … my own rhythms. I am not myself. I am not as I should be. But here I am, back again, selfishly at the center, trying to make myself into something.  I am, once again, the clay, trying to mold the slip into Sabbath.

Oh, father-child, born in the city of David. In you met mildness and ferocity. A dagger to the breast of shame and fear, you, the only innocent, lay babbling in others’ arms. Your limbs, primed for the miraculous, learned how to grasp and reach. Helpless, you were, even as through you and by you and in you all things have been knit together. Oh, passionate restraint and sovereign meekness.  Your tiny body was overfull with thundering power and stunning quiet. Your first cry in the night wrenched chaos into order, giving name and substance to mercy and justice. The very fabric of being shook at your word, just as it reverberated in the deeps of time, when you sifted the waters with your hands. You are the firstborn, brother of mine. Teach me wisdom; teach me foolishness. Meet me now.

Make me as you are, and as you were in Bethlehem. Tear my plans from me, and ruin my thoughts. Let me lay still, where there are no plans or regrets. Let me forget all but now, and the stillness of your presence. Weigh upon me like snow on the limb. You have come, and you are. Name my chaos, exile my wolves, and still my waters… Bring me to peace.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5)