A Lenten Prayer: "I Don't Know"

"I'm giving up chocolate."

"No wine for me during the week."

"I'm hoping to be a less critical person."

These are just some of the commitments that I've overheard on this Ash Wednesday. And I applaud them all--because those fasts would prove challenging to me!

Truth be told, Lent itself is already challenging me. For the first time in years, I've had trouble deciding on a discipline for these next 40 days. Feeling especially ambitious, I cut back on coffee one year. I studied 24 Hours That Changed the World by Adam Hamilton another year. Two years ago, I made a point of attending weekly worship services that I did not have to lead. Last year proved to be one of the most meaningful Lenten experiences as I took up "adventure," and blogged about what God taught me in the joys of hiking, traveling, bicycling, and other newfound activities. But this year, the discipline has not come so easily or quickly. Even though I've prayed and thought about what I could fast or practice, nothing is crystal clear. What I could give up or take up has been as foggy and overcast as today's delta sky.

Lent invites us into such an uncertain landscape. As we prepare to hear Sunday's gospel text of Jesus entering the wilderness, we remember that he, too, struggled with hearing the voice of his Father above the temptations of the devil. As we recall the Israelites' trek through the desert, we identify with their frustrations of entering an unknown place. We give thanks for the times that we hear God say, "this is the way; walk in it" because such roads are often elusive (Isaiah 30:21). May we learn to accept that there are times and seasons in which we just don't know what we're supposed to be doing. Uncertainty, be it about a Lenten discipline or about our relationship with God, is not the enemy of faith. Instead, "not knowing" invites us to faith. If we learn to pray with Thomas Merton, "My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going," we acknowledge that we need help. We admit that we don't know everything (imagine that!). We confess our need for God, simply by saying, "God, I don't know."

And doesn't Lent call us to live more simply? Perhaps we can begin by making simple changes, praying simple prayers, and being our simple selves -- the dust of the earth.

all good Lenten things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

The full text of Thomas Merton's prayer is as follows, and more information on the publication from which it comes is available here:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.