I think that to learn about a person, you must look at his or her bookshelf. Books are the windows to the soul. There are books that are read so frequently that pages are soft and spines are broken, books that have been demoted to the bottom shelf and books that are piled high in eager anticipation of the day that they might be read.
One of my favorite organizations at Maryville College is Sisters in Spirit, a women’s issues group with a spiritual flair that meets on Monday evenings in the Center for Campus Ministry.
I have been leading Sisters in Spirit since the beginning of my junior year, but this year has been special. I set out at the beginning of the year with the desire to not only host successful events and do good work, but also to form a community.
I wanted to form a community of women with the ability to become more than a student organization. I wanted Sisters in Spirit to enjoy spending time with one another and come to rely on one another.
I am fully aware that this part has little to do with me and everything to do with the way the Spirit moves amongst the women present, but Sisters in Spirit has truly become a community that I have come to count on as some of my dearest friends.
Each week we begin our meetings with an opener as a way of getting to know one another a little better. The first one that I decided upon was, “What is the book that you return to time and time again for comfort, or guidance, or laughter?”
I was struck by the variety of answers, but by far the most enthusiastic answer came from one member whose answer was Carry On, Warrior, the memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton. Her enthusiasm was catching, so when Carry On, Warrior caught my eye on a trip to the bookstore, I bought it.
This semester, I have spent time each Sunday thinking about what I can do during the week to help sustain my body, mind, and soul. Reading for pleasure has been my go to activity to comfort my mind, but I have struggled to ease into a state of being able to spend hours reading.
The first Saturday morning of Lent, I decided that I needed to bite the bullet and pick a book, and Carry On, Warrior was closest to me. I started reading it on Saturday and finished it up on Monday morning, shedding many a tear at Vienna Coffee when I was struck by the beauty of the essays I had spent hours reading.
I will be reflecting on Melton’s words for awhile, but the quote that stood out the most in this season was this: “I think Jesus likes REAL, whatever form in which it comes.” This quote encapsulates the season of Lent to me.
Lent is a time in which we are fully aware of our own shortcomings. It is the time in which we realize our limits, that the to do lists may never get done, but that the unfinished tasks are not the measurement of our worth.
Lent is the time for authenticity, even on the days when being authentic means you have to admit that your life is not all perfectly pieced together.
I have a friend who models authenticity to me everyday. She has shown me that people love you no matter what, and that people are more likely to show you that love when you admit that you need it.
She reminds me that showing the good and the bad does not make you weak, but rather makes you more fully human. She is the strongest person I know, and she is also one of few people who will not sugarcoat anything for me. She has made me stronger by her example of living an authentic life. She is real, all the time.
During this season of Lent, my spiritual practice has been to write the realest prayers that I can. Why bother pretending that all is well for God who knows that it is not? Why bother trying to show God how perfect I am when God and I both know that I am as far from perfect anyone could be?
It is my hope that during this season of Lent, I can learn to accept my real, no matter what form it may come in. Jesus likes real, so perhaps during this Lenten journey, I will learn to like my own real too.