I have been reading "Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith" by Kathleen Norris. Norris takes faith words, or religious words, and discusses a different one in each chapter. Today is Ash Wednesday so I flipped through for an idea. When I got to "repentance" it seemed to fit. I have always been a Protestant and so giving up something for Lent has never been stressed, but it always seemed to me that giving up something is sometimes viewed as a sort of self-punishment for the sins we've committed during the previous year - or it could be a matter of focus, of not letting that beloved little addiction distract us from the meaning of the days leading up to Easter.
In the "repentance" chapter Norris tells a story of a little boy who wrote a poem called "The Monster Who was Sorry".
He began by admitting that he hates it when his father yells at him; his response in the poem is to throw his sister down the stairs, and then to wreck his room, and finally to wreck the whole town. The poem concludes - " Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself - I shouldn't have done all that." My Messy House says it all: with more honesty than most adults could have mustered, the boy made a metaphor for himself that admitted the depth of his rage and also gave him a way out. If that boy had been a novice in the fourth-century monastic desert, his elders might have told him that he was well on his way toward repentence, not such a monster after all, but only human. If the house is messy, they might have said, why not clean it up, why not make it into a place where God might wish to dwell?
I always think of Lent as a chance to clean up the messy house inside me, but more importantly to remember that God is waiting to be invited into my house every single day whether it's messy or not.