By Mark Azzara
I have spent this Lenten season reflecting on some things that I didn’t anticipate thinking about.
Lent is supposed to be a time when we think about the need to repent, a word that means a serious change of thinking that leads to a significant change in conduct. I have done some repenting this Lent – something I didn’t anticipate.
I have learned a good deal about what motivates me. Specifically, I now realize much more deeply how me-centered my emotions are, and how easily they override my rational choices to do what is good and right.
Here are some of the emotions that I now realize govern me:
Fear. In the process of writing a piece of fiction that I now believe is ready to be published, I have confronted the fear of rejection. I don’t want to pursue representation by an agent because of the fear it can’t happen. I have allowed my fear of failure to dissuade me from obedience to God, who I believe called me to write and now wants me to share my writing with others. This is when I must remember that I am God’s “bondservant” – i.e., an indentured slave who has surrendered his will to God’s will. I need to rethink my weak-kneed commitment to being God’s slave.
Pride. I want to see my name on the cover of a book. I want to be able to say “I wrote that.” I want to autograph it for buyers. I want to talk to them. I want, I want, I want. But if God inspired me to write this manuscript then he has a purpose for it that’s significantly different from mine. So it’s time to rethink the purpose for this book. I could pridefully seek an agent and thus publication, but then I wouldn’t be surrendered. With God, what I do is not nearly as important as why I do it. The work may look the same on the outside, but God wants me to do it in surrender to him, not to my own ego. So I must rethink why I’m doing this.
Impatience. I want immediate reward but my idea of what is an appropriate award for my work is vastly different from God’s. I call it the boulder analogy. God tells me to push on a boulder every day. After a few weeks I realize (or Satan tells me) that the boulder hasn’t moved one inch, and I become discouraged because the anticipated reward – moving the boulder – hasn’t occurred.
But then God comes along and says that I have been rewarded. By pushing the boulder every day I have developed great muscle tone and gotten a good tan. I’m healthier than I was before as a result of obeying. But I didn’t have any clue what God’s reward was going to be when I first heard him tell me to start pushing, so I drew a conclusion that was totally inaccurate. So I am now being called to rethink what obedience means.
I could go on but that’s enough. I know that Lent is almost over, and that Easter will soon be far from our thoughts. Maybe that’s why this letter is being sent later than usual – so you’ll have something to think about (or to rethink) after Easter, because repentance can and should happen all year long.
All God’s blessings – Mark
Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, “And So Are You.” He is active in his church and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut.