By Lacey Dixon
As a child I thought of adulthood as an arrival. Once you became an adult, you achieved a status of knowing, of stability, of comfort. But I’m in my thirties now, and I’ve finally realized that’s not how adulthood works.
I’m both relieved and disappointed to discover I’m in a constant state of evolution and refinement. On one hand, each year provides new opportunities to sand off another rough edge or stretch in a new direction. On the other hand, it seems, the same annoying shortcomings from my youth can rear their ugly heads if I don’t persistently beat them back.
The most annoying weakness of all is holding myself to rigid, impossible standards. I declare how I should be or strictly outline how things should go and then proceed to kick my own rear end to achieve the impossible rubric I’ve created.
I’m disappointed because I’ve set myself up to fall short.
For Lent this year, I’m going to honor the true spirit of the season by focusing on who God made me to be.
Jesus teaches us that the journey matters, so that’s where I’m going to place my focus. Lent won’t be a forty-day countdown to eating cheese again or drinking Diet Coke whenever the craving for carbonation strikes me. (Somehow, I think those difficult denials from past years will prove easier.) This year is going to be about a daily refocus on the strengths I’ve been given.
In You’re Already Amazing, Holley Gerth writes that God wants us, not our striving or our standards. She says we should dare “to trust God’s whispers into your life more than the demands of the world around you about ‘the right way.’”
Without stressing about striving or standards (on days I’m successful), I intend to capture a better appreciation for the journey of the days and weeks leading up to Easter and create a habit I can carry far beyond Lent and into the larger season of adulthood.
I know some days this effort will come a bit more easily and other days I will fail. In her book, Gerth illustrates the reality of our intentions to serve through our strengths with a chart featuring a jagged line of peaks and valleys. They appear to illustrate a rugged terrain if you don’t recognize the overall upward trend. She writes that while we feel our valleys put us back at the bottom, they don’t. Instead, she says, we’ve “gained new wisdom, developed our strengths a bit more, and leaned a little harder into God.”
While the chart looks exactly like my mental picture of my quest for perfection, focusing on that upward trend over the peaks and valleys provides a better perspective of continued growth.
The chart also inspires another picture. A spiritual journey is a lot like a physical challenge: strength is built through a process of tearing down and rebuilding. If you run, lift, swim, or spin, you know each individual training day doesn’t provide a noticeable advancement toward the goal. Some days the bar is heavier than other days, and some weeks you feel more momentum. Sometimes you enter the gym or pool feeling strong and other days you feel the incredible challenge just to move. The important thing is that you show up and concentrate on the task at hand.
During any physical journey, I know I can find strength, or I can become overwhelmed by little defeats. I need to apply this perseverance concept to building strength spiritually.
I think that’s the beauty of Lent—an amount of time that requires perseverance, commitment, and patience. Lent is simply a forty-day segment of a much longer journey.
If you don’t see Lacey Rose Dixon taking photos or writing, she’s thinking about it. So far, she’s called Minnesota, South Dakota, and Michigan home, and her passport gets itchy for stamps. Lacey loves scuba diving with her hubby and crawling after her little man. Follow her @laceyrosedixon on Twitter.
Photograph © Sylwia Bartyzel, used with permission