At halftime, during a Junior High School basketball game, Coach Blanton began a rant we had never seen from him before. We were playing poorly and he was furious with us. He banged his fist on the lockers, threw towels around, kicked at the wall. “You boys have got to run the plays,” he screamed. One of the starting guards looked up from the bench and said, “Coach, those plays don’t work.” Coach Blanton went ballistic. But we all knew the words were true. Nothing we were trying was working. And it was time to make changes.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from playing sports, it is that the first half of the game doesn’t fully determine the outcome. I’ve lost plenty of games after being up after the first half. I’ve won plenty of tennis matches after losing the first set. And all coaches know that motivating a team to play the full game with intensity is quite a challenge. We are easily discouraged and, if we get off to a bad start, it’s hard for us to think that things can turn out well. We’re also pretty lazy and, if things are going well, we tend to let up and take things for granted.
Lent is not a sporting event but we’re half way through this season of preparation and it might be a good time to sit down and take stock of how things are going. What was your game plan when you started a few weeks ago? Did you intend to take on a new discipline? Did you have a change of attitude in mind? How successful have you been in your actions? And what effect is Lent having on your being?
Halftime sometimes reveals that our opponents have surprised us. In the case above, we had prepared for man-to-man defense but they were playing zone defense. Plays designed for man-to-man don’t work against a zone. Some of the things we take on as Lenten disciplines surprise us with their difficulty. Sitting quietly each day for 20 minutes is pretty easy, so why haven’t I been doing that like I planned? Am I that uncomfortable with myself? There’s plenty to be thankful for, so why is it so hard to practice gratitude? Am I that focused on the negative?
Most every halftime adjustment I’ve ever needed to make has involved relaxing a little more and pressing a little less. I’m a pretty good tennis player if I’ll just watch the ball and let things fall into place. I’m pretty lousy when I overthink how I am hitting the ball. Another little thing that seems to help is for me to think less about winning or losing and remember that I’m doing this because it’s fun. When I focus on the joy of the game and worry less about winning or losing, I almost always play better.
Maybe you’re like me and tend to get a little self-centered when it comes to Lent. It can all be about me winning or losing. If I do what I said I would do, I win. If I don’t, I lose. Remember when Jesus confronts the Pharisees and the Sadducees about their keeping of the law? They had come to see it only in terms of winning or losing and Jesus invites them to find something deeper in life. When my whole life revolves around my success or failure, I am grim and hateful.
What is my Lent revealing about who God is at this time in my life? Am I even noticing anything about God or am I just focused on my performance? Lent can be a harsh little proving ground for us or it can be a time where we learn to anticipate the goodness that God has in store for us.
Someone told me last week, “I always fail at Lent so I quit even bothering with it.” For her, it had become only a time to give something up or take something on and she never could do it well enough for her satisfaction. So she decided to stop playing altogether.
Lent is a time for us to examine how we are loving God and how we see God loving us. At this halfway point, what are you learning? One thing you might consider is that, every day, God is making adjustments in the way he loves you. God’s not sitting up in the clouds waiting for you to find the winning formula. God comes to you in a new way each and every day.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Events Around the Corner
Daylight Savings Time Starts – March 11
Young Adult Lunch – March 11
Avis and All Angels’ Guild Meeting – March 12, 6:00 pm
Heavenly Host – Parish Covered Dish Supper – March 13, 6:30 pm
Wednesdays in Lent – March 14- The Rev. Seth Olson
Youth Groups make Palm Crosses – March 18, 5:00 pm
Vestry – March 19
Wednesdays in Lent – March 21 – The Rev. Donald Fishburne
Palm Sunday – Procession of Palms and Passion Narrative – March 25