As I listened to a message called “Rhythm of Kindness” this morning, I realized I wasn’t very kind to myself. The entire service encouraged me to get into a rhythm of kindness and think seriously about how kindness can become a natural part of my life. Lent begins on Wednesday, and I have been praying about how to observe this most holy time.
On Ash Wednesday last year, Lillyann asked if I would come to her church. I told her I would come one day. She said, “Will you come tomorrow?”
I told her there wasn’t a service until Sunday, and I would go then. I wasn’t expecting anything more than a one-time visit, but God had something else in mind. As I prayed about Lent and what God would have me do, I knew I had to give up control and let Him lead. I wasn’t expecting Him to ask me to change churches. I was active in my church, loved my ministers, taught Sunday School and chaired several committees. I couldn’t just up and go; I needed time to transition.
God had different plans, and I went with His. I knew after my first visit I was where God wanted me to be. I’ve been there for over a year, and I marvel at all God has done in my life in a year’s time. I still have connections with my previous church and volunteer there one day a week. The two churches are coming together for outreach in the community, and God continues to bless in ways I could never have envisioned. I would still be transitioning if I had gone with my plan.
I have a long way to go when it comes to giving God control, but the forty days of Lent helped me take a big step in the right direction. That’s what Lent is about. It isn’t about denying as much as it is about changing. It is most often associated with giving up and doing without for forty days and then going right back to whatever was given up. Punishment, not love.
For me, Lent has always been about punishment. Love has been the same. With the Holy Spirit’s help, I’m growing and learning that love is so much more. The things I need to give up during Lent are things I need to give up period. If I give up something for forty days, I can do without it forever. If I do something positive for forty days, I will develop a good habit. Losing control has been painful, but very good for me. I’m glad I let go, listened, and allowed God to change me. I plan to do the same this year as I heed His call to be kind to myself. I’m hoping it will be a habit that sticks with me.
I don’t have a problem being kind to others, but I am very uncomfortable being kind to myself. The message this morning touched my heart and helped me see that I must be kind to myself before I can be kind to others just as I must love myself before I can love others. It’s about filling up before going on a trip. If I don’t have enough fuel, I’ll end up stranded. That’s just what happens with compassionate lovingkindness. I need to fill up so I will have enough kindness to share. I often feel depleted and defeated, and I realize it’s because I don’t take the time to be kind and loving to myself.
It’s easy to become bitter when you are always doing for others, and I find myself having a little pity party when my heart is on empty. I plan to use the image of a full car ready for a new adventure as I go through Lent this year. I plan to make a concerted effort to be kind to myself every day during Lent. This is certainly going to be a new kind of Lent; since Lent is about growth, I’m thinking I will experience new growth in the process. I still plan to fast and pray and look closely at what needs to go, but I plan to do it in a way that shows kindness and love. Here I thought last year’s Lenten season was a challenge. This year promises to be even more challenging, but I trust God to know what He’s doing. He is God, and I’m looking forward to all He will teach me about compassion in the next forty-three days.