Lenten Possibilities

Some days
one needs to hide
from possibility
      {Kooser and Harrison}

Recently, Wyatt pronounced a liberating confession. "Dad, I'm going to start watching TV instead of Netflix."

"Why?" I asked.

"Well, Netflix has a 1,000 choices, and I can never choose. But the TV only offers three choices. That's better."

We were not made for vast infinity. We were made to be creatures with limitations. Some resist this axiom and pursue a dogged determination to contravene the fact that our body is sagging, our energy fleeting, our years narrowing. What are midlife crises other than a panicked effort to wrench every conceivable possibility from the past and ride it wildly into the present? I speak as a man who has moved into that mid-life shadowland.

But it is a grace to know our place, to know that we are not defined by our possibilities, whether missed or exploited. We are defined by the one who has loved us – and by the love that, having settled into our heart, eeks out meagerly and lavishly to the ones we are uniquely able to love. To live with perpetual options is to never settle into gritty and particular living, into gritty and particular love. Only God is able to truly love the whole world. And we are not God.

To try to live everywhere is to never truly live anywhere. To try to love, with equal fervor, all things is to never deeply and generously love anything. To attempt to live another person's expectations is to surrender the one true thing you have to give. Let the young have their limitless paths – there's a grace in that too. Yet the hope is not to roam eternally, but to find the place of belonging. And then belong.

Lent is a grace because it strikes at the idol of endless possibility. When, on Ash Wednesday, we are marked with burnt soot, we hear the words from dust you came and to dust you will return. Dust doesn't have numerous options; its trek is pretty much complete. Of course, dust isn't the end. There's Resurrection and new creation and all the truths that kindle our faith. But first: dust.

There are many (in the church as much as anywhere else) pushing endless visions of all we might accomplish, but Lent asks us to take an honest look at all that. Lent asks us (could we please, just for this stretch of 40 days) to be more discriminating, more present. Sometimes to seek your one truth thing, you have to hide from hundreds of others.

12 responses to Lenten Possibilities

  1. Beautifully stated, and so very true. I will remember this as I make my way through the busy days of Lent. Pay attention. Be present. Seek my one true thing. Thank you, Winn Collier.

  2. Concise direction for this Lent, beautifully told. Thank you. I re-posted on my Facebook page.

  3. I love the thought that we weren’t created for endless possibilities or ‘vast infinity’. I’m way too concerned I’ll miss out somehow, but it’s probably ok if I do.

    • I’m with you, Brett. I’m finding it good to be tethered. Some may call the other option free sailing, but it feels more like flopping in the wind to me. And yup, I think it’s okay to miss out on something.

  4. Hiding from hundreds of others to find my truth. You’ve captured me there. Actually, you captured my attention throughout your post. I can’t help but wonder about spending less time on Facebook, but had I not been there this morning, I might not have found your Lenten Possibilities, inviting me to a deeper possibility.

  5. I stumbled upon your post through a google search. I’m attempting this year to pay better attention through the season of Lent, and boy did this post spark my thinking even more.

    I especially liked this: “To live with perpetual options is to never settle into gritty and particular living, into gritty and particular love. Only God is able to truly love the whole world. And we are not God.” In a world where we are in touch with so many people through the internet, and the weight of caring for many more than maybe we were made to care for….that thought struck home.

    Now I’ll be looking through the rest of your blog! Happy to have stumbled upon your thoughts! I

    • Stumbling is almost as good as dancing, and if you’re me, the two are intertwined. Thanks for coming by and for dropping a word.

  6. A time for returning to the “enough” and sticking with it. Thank you, Winn. Good words.

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