BY EMILY MCDERMOTT
This is the fourth in a series of posts.
Every night when I put my 13-month old son to bed, we go through the same bedtime routine. I draw the blackout shades, put on the white noise machine, get him into his pajamas, and read him a book. Then I turn off the lights so we are in complete darkness, except for a sliver of light coming from the hallway under the door. We sit down in the glider and he starts to nurse.
With one of his arms tucked under me, his top arm is free and he searches for my hand. He wraps his fingers around my thumb and I gently grasp his fingers with the rest of mine. After a minute or two, he pulls his hand away and starts moving his arm. I keep my hand in place, waiting for him to return. He always comes back, searching for the comfort of his mother’s touch.
My journey with God has been a lot like this.
There have been times where I’ve wandered away from God for a season, and then reach my hand out in the darkness and He finds me. I hold on for a while, and when things get comfortable, I let go. I’ve got this, God. I can do it myself.
But inevitably I come back to Him, realizing desperately that I need his grace and to stand on his promises rather than my own strength. He is always waiting with an outstretched hand, ready to receive me.
You would think that I would learn to stay where I am, held close by Him. But that hasn’t been the case so far. Even though I try to live a life aligned with my values, and write about this regularly on my blog, my quiet time with God often goes by the wayside. I become comfortable with the status quo. I’ve got this, God. I can do it myself.
It’s a lie, so why do my actions show that I believe it?
Lent has always been a mystery to me. Growing up Presbyterian, my family didn’t do anything special during the Lenten season. I remember going to a fish fry once with my neighbors who were Catholic. In college, I wouldn’t know it was Ash Wednesday until my classmates would come to school with ashes on their forehead. I’d occasionally “give something up” for Lent like chocolate but it was never connected to my faith. Honestly, it seemed like a good restart when my healthy eating resolutions from January didn’t work out.
As I’ve wandered away from God and back to Him, Lent never entered into the picture. It was always about checking the boxes. Did I pray today? Check. Did I read God’s word? Check. Did I go to church? Check. Well, I must be “back with God” if I’m doing those things.
But it’s not enough anymore. I’m done with checking boxes.
Lately I’ve been turning over a Scripture in my heart that sums up what I want Lent to mean to me this year: John 3:30. The translation that speaks closest to my heart is the King James Version: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
I have been on a minimalism journey for a few years now, where I’ve slowly removed the excess and distractions in my life so that I can focus on what’s most important to me. The excess may be physical possessions, commitments on my calendar, or behaviors that don’t align with my values. Checking the stats on social media and my blog to see how many people “like” what I’m saying first thing in the morning, instead of giving that time to God. Eating too much because it’s there and I can. Holding on too tightly to control, or anger, or the stories I tell myself.
The holding on makes me weary, and it doesn’t allow me to make room for God. But what if, instead of flailing around in the darkness, grasping for more, I held onto the God who has been waiting for me all along?
During this Lenten season, instead of picking something to “give up,” I want to focus on making room for God in each moment. I want to loosen my grip on my resources so I can be generous to others. Let go of the anger and frustration that blinds me as a parent and see my children through God’s eyes. Ask myself where my attention and intention are in this moment.
Because when I open my hands and my heart to Him and reach out, I know I will find His outstretched hand in the darkness. And this time, I don’t plan to let go.
EMILY MCDERMOTT is a 38 year-old wife to Patrick and stay-at-home mama to Andrew and Sean, ages 2 and 1. After learning about minimalism back in 2015, she started a journey to simplify by removing the excess and aligning her daily actions with her values. She currently writes about simplicity, minimalism, habits, and intentional living at Simple by Emmy. Emily is active in her MOPS group, is a mentor for the infertility organization Fruitful, and enjoys eating peanut butter, writing poetry, and dancing in her basement.