Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lent, Law School, and Practicing the Presence of God

I gave up watching TV for Lent. When Lent ended today, Easter, the day of victory, the day of celebration and joy, I gleefully partook of what I'd abstained from and finished the last season of HIMYM.

When it was finished (okay, I cried a little), I reflected on where the past two hours had gone, how it was 2am, and it was irresponsible to be up that late, and how deadened two hours of television had made me feel after such a wonderful day.

This, I thought, this is why I gave up TV.

I actually gave up TV in order to better practice the presence of God. I don't often observe Lent, just because self-denial for its own sake seems to me something I can only practice selfishly, for example, slipping into the trap of thinking that watching less TV would make me a better person.

But something curious happened.

On April 12th, three days before the response deadline, I sent in a seat deposit to Penn State. I made my decision. I chose a law school. And I had such peace about it. I looked for apartments as I Skyped with Maggie and we spit-balled about visiting Disney over our spring breaks.

But three days later, on April 15th, on the response deadline, I got an email from Suffolk, my first choice law school, offering me a full-tuition scholarship. (PSU had offered me this to begin with, which I why I had chosen them over Suffolk.) When I saw the email frustration seeped through me. "Why. Why. Why." I chanted to myself as I sat at my desk.

Once I got over my initial angst, I launched into advice-seeking, pro-con list-making, general rationalizing. I emailed PSU to see if I could get my deposit back. No dice.

The whole time I questioned, "Why, Father, would You have this happen this way?" All my life my path has been steered by the gentle channel of closed and open doors. I walk forward in my desires, seeking congruence with His will, and trust Him to halt the plans that aren't His. And this has really worked for me. I'm not one of these people who agonizes of the mystery that is knowing the will of God. His personage has a depth I can't fathom, but it seems His will is very simple: seek Him.

This being my paradigm, I was flummoxed by the sudden appears of two doors. The trust I had previously placed in my decision for PSU faltered as Suffolk again became a possibility. But I was also loathe to change my mind after I had already accepted PSU as my fate. I had waited for weeks for an email from Suffolk with such scholarship news; how stunting for it to come just days after I put the money down.

"What do You want me to do," I would inquire of Him sullenly, frustrated that He would have me question my future beyond the next three months, annoyed that He would tease me with something I had desired for so long. I wanted clarity. I wanted an answer. I wanted handwriting on the wall.

And I don't want to elevate myself to put words in His mouth, but in that moment what it seemed He replied was, "I want your attention."

Lent was not about watching television. The scholarship news from Suffolk was not about my law school decision. The choice has made me batty, but it's not about choosing a school. (Either is perfectly fine!) This is about something much more important.

It's about my heart. It's about increasing the proximity of my heart to His.

And it's funny how understanding this doesn't automatically attune me to Him, just like six weeks without television didn't kill my capacity to stay up late binging on episodes that have already aired. It's funny how easy it is to adopt "Seek Him" as your guiding decision-making paradigm and then you forget to actually like, seek Him.

But He won't relent until He has it all, our whole hearts, our complete attention. And how patient He is, and how creative, how He gives us these slow pitches as He teaches us to keep our eyes on the proverbial ball . . .

The baseball metaphor is dripping with cheese, I know, but I have so much joy that I am loved by a G0d who demands my attention and teaches me to give it to Him. That He says to me, "Daughter, I will not abandon the work I began in you." He lives. He leaves us not to follow Him blindly groping, but He will open our eyes and grab our attention.

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