I used to take wilderness canoe trips during summers in my college years. On my first trip, my boots were too small, something I didn’t realize until I put them on with my wool socks, hundreds of miles from anywhere. I shall spare you the gory details, but I ended up with blisters that made my feet look a WWI soldier with trench foot. I was completely miserable, and barely able to put one foot in front of the other as I hauled a canoe and backpack from lake to lake in Northern Ontario.
I had been warned about the mosquitoes, but I didn’t realize how bad they were until the first time I flipped the canoe up over my head and swarms of the little buggers huddled up under the dripping Fiberglas, attacking any piece of open skin on my head, hands, and arms. And woe to me any time I happened to slow down to give my poor feet a rest, or to shift the canoe, or whatever. Any lag led to those needle-nosed demons declaring open season.
That’s what the last 24 hours have felt like. Welcome to Lent…
It’s not the big stuff that trips me up, that ruins my focus, spoils my mood, and renders me completely ineffective. It’s the little nonsense–technology trouble at work, general clumsiness, traffic delays, and some bizarre hyper-sensitivity to EVERYTHING. I’m pathetic.
I have been aggravated, angry, annoyed, critical, criticized, discouraged, impatient, and, (need I mention?) whine-y.
In Orthodoxy we talk a lot about our “passions”–those things that often lead us to sin. We are constantly reminded of the danger they pose to us, and how they keep us from becoming more like Christ. We pray for help in controlling them, and seek to bring them to submission.
I have been told, often, to expect more struggle during Lent, both internal and external. Obviously, I am consciously wrestling with more–intentionally trying to focus on my need for a Savior and healing. And, of course, the enemy wants me to do none of that, for as long as I am distracted, disinterested, or distressed, I am ineffective.
I could not shake these thoughts last evening. They already had their proboscises in me, drawing blood. I went to sleep with them, and I awakened to them. But then I recognized them for what they were, and I started swatting them off. (It was best accomplished in my icon corner with the book of Psalms.)
I expect they’ll come back. I’m tired, walking slow, and feeling ouchy, so I guess I’ll make an easy target. But like the portage under the dripping canoe, I have places to go, and I can’t get there standing around whining about the bugs.
Today’s morning psalm:
LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah
But You, O LORD, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the LORD with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people.