As a little girl, I was extremely melancholic, to the point of finding myself every so often sinking into bouts of sadness or loneliness. Sometimes, I’d just feel “lost” for seemingly no reason at all. Nothing was ever truly wrong but at the same time, nothing was ever truly right, either.
Sure, there were things that could have had me down – my dad’s heart condition, the occasions of family discord, or the solitariness of being the youngest child who trails her siblings by several years. Our house certainly could get quiet and lonely at times. Yet, there was never anything I could directly relate it to. In fact, all these years later, I still can’t figure out the cause of those sensations. They were sudden, and they were strong. That’s all I know.
I’d go to my Dad and ask him, “Daddy, can I sit on your lap?”
He’d say, “Sure. What’s wrong?”
I’d say, “I dunno, I just feel all mixed up inside.”
So, he’d let me climb up into his lap and nestle there. Sometimes we’d talk and sometimes not. But just being with my father was such consolation. I’d relax into his lap and let his fatherly goodness wash over me. There was something about being there, listening to his heart beat and following the rhythm of his breathing, that would make those mixed-up feelings fade away. When I was in Daddy’s lap, the world seemed right again. After a while, I’d feel better, slide off his lap and go back to whatever I had been doing before.
On my last Morning Air appearance, host John Harper complimented me on my ability to “relax into Lent.” I had to chuckle when I heard that, because I always feel as though I go into Lent kicking and screaming and come out sweaty and exhausted.
Nonetheless, John’s remark got me thinking back to those days of my childhood when I’d get the sensation of being “all mixed up inside” and sought the refuge of my father’s lap. Relaxing into his lap in my weakness helped me to gather myself and gave me the courage to face life with a renewed spirit.
Until John’s mention of relaxing into Lent, I hadn’t equated my childhood feelings of being “all mixed-up inside” with my adulthood feelings of being “all mixed up inside.”
That’s exactly what I do each Lent. My own sinfulness and need for repentance get me to feeling sad, lonely, even lost, and I have to seek refuge. I need to realize my weakness and then seek out my heavenly Father so that I can tell him I’m “all mixed up inside.” Then I need to relax into his “lap” and let his Fatherly goodness wash over me. Sometimes we’ll talk, and sometimes we won’t. But, nestled in deeply, I’ll be able to listen to his heart beat and follow the rhythm of his breathing. That will make the mixed-up feelings fade away and everything will seem right again. After a while, I’ll feel better, slide off his lap, and go back to whatever I had been doing before.
However, it will be different with the heavenly Father from what it was like with my earthly father. When I’m in the heavenly Father’s lap, he’ll fill me with the grace to see where I’ve gone wrong and what I can do to make it right. He’ll lead me on the path of acknowledgement, contrition, repentance, and resolution to be better than I was before. When I slip off the heavenly Father’s lap, it will be with a firmer commitment to imitate his Son and the wisdom to understand how. I’ll leave with courage and a renewed spirit.
That’s relaxing into Lent.
Image: Ricard Canals (1876 – 1931), Sick Child, Wikimedia Commons sAGxeOHYv-H3Qw at Google Cultural Institute