This Sunday [eta: in Western traditions] is called “Rose Sunday,” though it goes by many other names. It marks the half-way point in our Lenten journey, and is a time to rejoice a little extra on Resurrection Day. It’s a time to take stock of where we are with our disciplines, and maybe relax them a little bit.
Where are you at with your disciplines? Have they brought out any new issues that you’ve dealt with, or that you know you’ll be dealing with for a while? Or have you been making up for them in other ways, trying to ignore the issues they bring up? (This is what I usually find myself doing – I’ve been getting a good bit of spinning done.) Look at what God has done in you so far, and “declare his mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). Rejoice and thank Him, and ask Him to reveal Himself to you even more during the second half of this season.
The question I asked myself at the beginning of this journey has started to be answered. If you’re going to have a coping mechanism, knitting is a pretty awesome one – you get to create and learn, it’s relatively inexpensive, it’s legal most places, and it’s not [chemically] mood altering or anything. But the question still bears asking: what am I coping with?
The first week or so of not knitting was rough. As expected, I was very distracted in class. I find it very difficult to just sit still and listen, so I tend to surf the internet or work on some boring internet-related project, trying to sort of listen at the same time. Catching myself doing this, I started asking this: does knitting cover up a lack of a sense of purpose? Maybe not quite that, but it disguises a laziness and lack of investment in what I really am called to do right now: study. One conviction I’ve come out with so far is that if I’m not getting much out of my classes, it’s mostly because I’m not really investing myself. I’m still an incurable fidget, but I’m trying to have a better attitude about the schoolwork which is, after all, my primary vocation at the moment.
But the missing investment wasn’t just in schoolwork. A very close friend, possibly the only person I’m not married to who could say this, said to me, “I think I like you better when you’re not knitting!” This was shocking and understandably distressing until she and I both figured out what she was really saying.
I’ve described knitting as mental white noise. It calms and quiets that part of me that would just be fussing and fidgeting and worrying all the time, freeing most of my brain to focus more on the actual task at hand. This is immensely useful for a fussbudget like myself. But you know what happens when white noise gets too loud. You don’t notice at first, if the volume goes up slowly, but soon you feel uncomfortable and distracted, maybe even anxious. Eventually you can’t even hear yourself think, and sometimes it takes having to shout to talk to someone before you realize how loud it’s gotten.
I don’t think it’s that my knitting got too “loud.” I think the way I knit – like having background noise – just spread to everything in my life. Everything has to be efficient, multi-tasked, and not too demanding. And if you’re multitasking all the time, you’re not really doing anything. When my friend said “I like you better when you’re not knitting,” what she really meant was that not knitting has made me intentionally invest in my own life – an activity that made me stop and come alive like I haven’t done in… well. I don’t want to think about how long.
I get so caught up in the practical questions of life. How are we going to pay the bills? Should I get a job this fall? When should we do this or that? How am I going to get my house clean? These are the real background noise, the noise that knitting let me ignore. We (Jared & I ) have started calling these “how questions,” because they’re questions about how a thing is going to happen that we already know will happen. While they’re fine questions to ask, they are secondary, because of the basic fact that God will provide for us on the path He sets. The real questions – the questions we should be asking Him – are the “what questions.” Like, What are you calling us to do? What are the desires of my heart? What do I need to focus on? These are questions that have only supernatural answers, that I can’t answer by striving or working harder. We do our best, but God calls us to things that are impossible without Him. It’s like I’m a bird in flight: I know God will provide the currents and backdrafts to get me to my destination. All I need to know is where to aim. Destiny and calling – these are the questions we want to ask right now. And asking those questions helps us to settle into confidence that God will answer the “how questions” in due time.
So I’m learning to intentionally invest in my current calling (schoolwork), in myself, and in prayer. I think the “next step” that will take up the rest of Lent, while my background noise is gone, is to intentionally invest in others, in relationships. This (and the rest of the above) are part of lifelong growth, not something that will be fixed in forty days. But all disciplines of abstinence (fasting, silence, solitude, giving something up) provide an intense period for growth, so that when we re-engage with those things we backed away from, we can do so in a better, more healthy, whole-ier fashion.
So enjoy your Rose Sunday. Celebrate the victory of Jesus on the cross and in your life. I might just knit a little.
“Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21