Last year for Lent, I gave up anger and this lent you’ve joined my journey to give up evil – in speech, thought, word, and deed. Surprisingly this decision to stop expressing or dwelling on the negative has had a balancing effect during this phase of my pregnancy when most people would recommend getting wound up as part of the preparation for motherhood. Being an incendiary personality all my life, the last forty days of taking a deep break, laughing it off, and in general just pausing, have strengthened my resolve to let go a little bit more each day of the non-essentials.
The purist in me, that wet eyed idealist who went into an autistic fit whenever the world didn’t make sense or operate according to reason has learned to relax, a bit at time, in order to conserve energy to focus on what is most important from what is at hand. These are not easy lessons. Not has it been easy to drag myself to church on Friday mornings after major social events or a week where I could have run a marathon everyday for all the hours I put in at the office. There have been reasons aplenty for me to sleep in, skip, or forget my commitment to go to a place of worship.
After all the first four years I lived in Qatar, I barely went to any service regularly after being discouraged from the unfriendly Anglicans who I visited several weeks in a row, never to be greeted by anyone, including the minister after the service.
But the office I work in now is a holy place because of the faith of the young people; someone is always praying during the day or fasting during the week and in these small choices my colleagues who are Muslims, call me back to my pursuit of faith and my path I walk with God. I am emboldened by them in the absence of a community of Christians since I only attend church – don’t teach any classes or attend any Bible studies as used to be a major part of my life during my undergraduate and graduate years.
The decision to stop entertaining evil or hatred or negativity did open up space for the good. I dug out some CDs (yes, some of us still use those) of praise songs to play in the car and keep my heart soft, instead of raging, a growing awareness of the other life forming inside me and my spiritual responsibilities to him as well as my own soul…
It cannot be an accident that earlier this month a major break occurred with a friend over the question of religious identity as my conversion from Hinduism came as a complete surprise to her.
I felt both shocked and convicted by her feelings of surprise and betrayal. On the one hand, my faith is out there in the open. On this blog for example, my Facebook affiliation, a cross and Bibles in our house. Then on the other, the fact it hit her out of the blue, gave me pause: had I stopped talking about God? Of course in the way that I had in college, surrounded by the bubble of college ministry; but entirely? No.
I wrote my first novel about the similarities Christianity and Hinduism can have in their views towards women through the eyes of the female protagonist.
And in setting up boundaries while working for a start up, I had to say Friday morning, church service time, could not be scheduled for meetings or work groups.
Now on the Saturday night before Easter, I’m traveling and far away from a known place of worship. Easter is a major holiday in the UK as schools and universities close for a few weeks and families go away together — often to exotic locales. In an otherwise secular state, the day off on Friday and Monday are tethers in the social and vacation calendars.
I find myself in London, a city I visited for the first time as a graduate student in 2004 (despite countless trips flying through Heathrow on the way to India) the day before Easter. Like other places in the world, I’ve had the chance to visit again years later, I wonder if I turn my head quickly, I could catch a glimpse of a younger version of myself walking through the streets at an earlier date in time.
She who was unmarried, not expecting to be a mother, never having heard of Qatar, or entertained the idea she would one day spend half a decade living in it; she who nonetheless walked the blustery streets that March, full of the optimism that God would lead her where she wanted to be.
Five years later, I find myself content – a blessing that cannot be understated. I approach Easter with a lighter load and the promise of new life in spring though that is mostly absent from the landscape here but ironically present in my six month pregnancy.
A time of renewal, of hope, of promise. I embrace Easter and my faith anew, hoping both will help me prepare for what lies next around the bend.