Fail Better

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

--Samuel Beckett

I climbed up a tree to think. My son caught me sitting there, snapped this picture of me. I didn't have time to smile or pose. This is just me looking like me. I think I look weary. Or vulnerable. Or something. This picture surprises me. That facial expression is not the one I imagine myself having. But there it is.

Unexpected Truth.

Unexpected Reality.

This is where I am, struggling through the Unexpected Truth of this suddenly heavy Lent. It's humbling. I thought I was going all-out in a flashy show of devout fervor. No meat, no alcohol, no rap. And God i all: aw, that's cute, EE, you're giving up your favorite rap station for Lent? How about this? How about I ask you to give up something big? Like, say, your house?

B-b-but GOD! That's NOT the Lent I prepared for! That's not the Lent I want!

I want a Lent that I can control. I want a Lent that doesn't require real sacrifice, just symbolic sacrifice. I don't want a painful Lent. I want an easy Lent.

Ah, but this Lent. This is the Lent I need.

Fasting shows--with glaring accuracy--my weakness, my neediness. Where did that harsh tone of voice come from? Why am I so snappy at the children? Then again, why am I surprised at myself? Isn't being surprised by my weaknesses a sign of pride?

Oh, God.

This Lent, it's like my son snapping a picture of me--no time to pose. No time to smile. It's just me in all my rawness, in my unvarnished weakness.

Yet, I am grateful. I need to see myself clearly. This is what Lent does.

I've found myself gasping out little aspirations of thanks for everyday things. Thank you, God, for this doctor's appointment. Jasiel's fever was at 103.5. She screamed every time she urinated. Thank you, God, for these antibiotics.

As soon as I said those thanks, a pocket of expansiveness opened up inside me. A thought. What glorious abundance it is to have health insurance, to have the privilege of taking my daughter to the doctor.

Thank you, God, for this clean bathroom at the doctor's office.

Gratitude is the insulation against the cold winds of despair. I'm clinging to that insulation now.

I woke up with a tear-stained pillow the other night. I was crying because I don't want to leave my home.

Thank you, God, for the gift of having lived here.

The other morning I wept because I thought: "Now that we don't own our home, we'll never be able to adopt an orphan." They don't let renters adopt babies, do they? Only successful people who own homes with wide lawns of freshly mowed grass. It's always been part of my lifelong dream--adopt an orphan.

Thank you, God, for a heart open to children.

Maybe it sounds odd to thank God for my own heart. Well, it is a gift--is it not?--to have a mother's heart that only longs to love and love and love? Yes, it's a gift. So, I thank Him for it.

I was frustrated last week because I was supposed to meet up with a friend. I so wanted to see her. I so needed that break. But my daughter was sick and needed my sole attention and care. I texted my friend my apologies, tried to wrangle my schedule and make our meetup happen. She texted back: This is life, friend.

Thank you, God, for friends who seek me out. Thank you for the interruptions of life.

Sometimes I think I deserve a well-planned life. One with backup plans and contingency plans and no interruptions.

I am failing at Lent right now. But I'm failing forward. This Lent is teaching me things I never knew.

By God's grace, I'm failing better.