This is my second Lenten season as a mother. Last year, with my daughter born in November, Lent sneaked up on me. Before she was born, I planned and prepared for Lent at the church I served. But as Ash Wednesday came and went, I barely could keep track of the days.
In past Lents, I’ve run the gamut of spiritual disciplines and practices. At least I’ve attempted much during the season of Lent. However, last year it was enough to just hold on to my daughter as a newborn for my Lenten discipline. Forget adding something to do or more time to myself, my daughter was always with me, always needing something. I couldn’t take away anything or give up something as it was hard enough to remember to take care of myself at that time.
This year, however, our second Lent, we have more of a routine. A rhythm. I have breathing space. And with this new found freedom, I have time to experience Lent. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter keeps me busy. She’s walking now and into everything. I turn for a second and she’s out of sight and into the nearest cupboards. Her hands reaching for anything. But I have a new-found clarity these days. I have a clearer mind and an open heart. I’m ready to experience Lent again with my daughter.
So this year’s Lenten discipline involves listening more, and savoring God’s story. And it all started with my daughter; during a few times when she’s been very upset. Breathing hard. Crying. Screaming. Those big, deep, sad gulps for air. Whenever this happens, there’s only one thing I can do: I hold her. I put her to my chest. I keep holding her, listening to her sobs, and I feel something. I feel her heartbeat next to mine. And over time as our hearts beat together, she calms down.
I picture God holding us like this with our hearts beating together. The love I feel for my daughter gives me a glimpse of the love God has for us; the hope God has for each of us.
This heartbeat, then, has become my Lenten discipline. Resting in God’s heartbeat for me and knowing that God’s heart does indeed beat for me is where my Lent is leading me. I need to be reminded that I am held in this loving embrace. This Lent as I listen to the news and as I fear for this world my daughter will grow up in, I need another story. I need to know that God’s heart beats and proclaims a story counter to everything I hear of violence, war, economic uncertainty, and fear.
God’s story is more real than any other fact or fear. God’s story is one of unending forgiveness; a story where the last will be first; a story where no one goes hungry; a story of hope and love and grace; a story where we hear, “Do not be afraid;” a story of God becoming human, a story of an empty tomb. God’s story believes in me when I can’t believe in myself.
This story needs to break into my heart and soul. I’ve come to realize that for right now it’s not about how much I believe in the story, but rather that I simply immerse myself in it. That I listen to the story and savor it. There is much that I don’t understand and that I question, but with my desire to know God, I have a start. This Lent provides the opportunity to listen for God’s heartbeat.
So where do I hear God’s heartbeat? Where am I living God’s story? If I just stop for a moment, I hear it. In worship, in quiet moments with my family, in a good book, in God’s Word, in song, in sharing a meal, in prayer, in a home-cooked meal, in breaking bread with friends, in laughter, in tears, and in falling into bed after a full day. God’s story surrounds us.
Each day I get the opportunity to hear more of God’s story, to experience this unfathomable love for me whether it comes from family and friends or in serving God’s people. I know that I just need to keep listening and trusting that God’s story is greater than any news story or fear or uncertainty that I hear.
Immersed in Lent this year I’m grateful for this time to remember that my story is God’s story. This Lent I am reminded that God’s heart beats for all. Right now I am listening. Do you hear it, too?