Forgive yourself. Lent is about repentance and forgiveness, which should include you. It helps me to remember that my goals are on sticky notes, not on bronze plaques. And while it is meaningful to engage more with the divine during a certain liturgical season, it is not the only time we can engage. It is never too early or too late to start a spiritual discipline. For example, I’ve been attending Soul Core on and off for a while now. Soul Core is definitely more of a Roman Catholic spirituality practice, but I have found it to be a meaningful time where I can set prayer intentions and commune with God through movement, prayer, and silence. I decided to commit to weekly meetings in Lent and structured my work schedule accordingly. Then I got a cold and started my period at the same time and missed the class after Ash Wednesday. But this year, I’m not going to beat myself up over missed goals (or at least I’m going to try). Instead, I texted in that I would be unable to make it (I didn’t want to get anyone else sick) and I planned to attend next week. I reminded myself of the phrase the leader uses, “honor your body where it is today”.
Just to be clear, in the first few days of lent, I set an intention of attending classes regularly, and then promptly was unable to do so… how human of me. So, I’m honoring my humanity, knowing that my body is simply unable to comply with my goals at this time. And I’m forgiving myself for not perfectly executing my spiritual goals. Maybe adding forgiveness of self to my spiritual goals isn’t a bad idea either.
Pastors are not perfect. I need to say that for myself as much as for everyone else. I’m not a “better person” than my parishioners (or my blog followers). And I’m certainly susceptible to the same doubts and goof ups as every other human. No one is perfect. So instead of feeling guilty for not being perfect, I am choosing to remember that I am human, made of star dust and the breath of God. I am loved despite my flaws. A friend shared that he had reframed a traditional prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner” to instead say “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me your beloved”. It was exactly what I needed to hear; I hope it is meaningful for you too.
I’m exploring new ways to understand Lent, and that includes exploring new ways to interpret scriptures.
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
I’m highlighting this passage only to say that it is sometimes used to make women feel worse or like they are lesser than men, or that they are the cause of sin… obviously I don’t like that, none of us need another reason to feel worse about ourselves or to feel less human than someone else.
I came across this passage in my Women’s Bible Commentary, “On the other hand, in the lore of all cultures interdictions such as Genesis 2:17 (“But of the tree…”) exist to be disobeyed by the tales’ protagonists. That is what makes the story. Eve, as she is named in 3:20, is the protagonist, not her husband. This is an important point, as is the realization that to be the curious one, the seeker of knowledge, the tester of limits, is to be quintessentially human—to evidence traits of many of the culture-bringing heroes and heroines of Geneses.” (p. 31). Eve makes a choice to eat the fruit, to gain knowledge. Together with the snake “like the Greek giant Prometheus, who was said to have given fire to humankind, is a trickster, a character having the capacity to transform situations and overturn the status quo”, Eve brings culture (social life, eating, clothing, etc.). The story is set up so that the protagonist (Eve) meets the one who has the capacity to transform situations, so we, the readers, know that something is about to change. For me, knowing that this is a story telling structure to set up the expectation of disobedience, Eve’s actions seem a little more neutral. It reminds me of my brother telling his almost-one-year-old son, “don’t you dare spit out your pacifier” hoping that his son will spit it out, giggle, and start growing to not need the pacifier at all.
All this to say, I like the idea that Eve is the protagonist doing what God sort of encouraged her to do. And because of her choice there is something uniquely female that links life in the garden of Eden and the life that we now know. “The woman herself comes to have the most earthy and the most divine of roles, conceiving, containing, and nurturing new life. She is an especially appropriate link between life in God’s garden and life in the thornier world to which all of us are consigned.” (p. 32) So, life is still hard for Eve after leaving the garden, but it is also beautiful, and connected to a loving God. So it is for us.