Reflections on Ash Wednesday: Teach us to sit still

Written by Plant With Purpose on February 22, 2012 in General

Prayer in Haiti

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still.” ~T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

by Aly Lewis

I am a recovering perfectionist, or so I’d like to think. More often than not, I’m recovering from the ramifications of perfectionism instead of overcoming perfectionism itself. Most of the time, I’m recovering from a bruised ego and a worn out soul.

At the risk of sounding like one those ridiculous job interview farces where the candidate arrogantly clucks out weaknesses that no one in their right mind would call weaknesses, “I try too hard. I care too much,” (eye roll please) the truth is, I try too hard and I care too much. About the wrong things.

I try too hard in the wrong things. I care too much about the wrong things.

How I look in a bathing suit. How many hits I get on my blog. If the guy I met at the party is going to friend me on Facebook.

But it’s deeper routed than that. It’s more than being distracted by the trivial. It’s being driven by the tyrannical. The tyrannical need to perform, to do, to complete, to accomplish.

I have trouble caring and not caring. I have trouble sitting still.

I want meaningful rest and meaningful work. I want to care about the right things and not care about the wrong things.


How do I get there? Today is Ash Wednesday, and whether you observe Lent or not, I think there is a lot we can learn from this practice of giving something up to allow space for something else-God’s presence, deeper connection with others, peace.

Now I can force myself to sit still, physically. But how do I get my mind to rest?

How do I silence the biting guilt that courses through me, gnawing at me to be more loving, more engaged, more connected?

How do I engage in alone time when I don’t really feel the freedom to be alone? When I’m haunted with the need to be productive?

I’m so reluctant to sit, still and defenseless, with my longing and desire, to not try to fix myself, to let the Holy Spirit do its mysterious recreating in my soul.

A burden lifts when I realize I don’t have to do it, and, in fact, I cannot do it all. I can live in ways that promote health and peace in my life, but it is not up to me to heal or fill my heart. Only God can do that. He’s done it before and I can trust him to do it again. God is love.

And so today I ask you, God, for purpose, meaning, and connection. I want to stop drifting in and out of my days disconnected and unexamined. I want to really feel for and connect with people. I want empathy that moves me to compassion. I want to care about things, people, issues. I want my heart to break for the things that break your heart. I want to be living an intentional, purposeful, love-filled life. I want to share myself with others. I want to receive what others have to share with me. I want to feel joy. I want to be fulfilled. I want to know that I’m not wasting my time. I want to choose love. When the choice comes to zone out or just “get through,” when the choice comes to get irritated by the little things, I want to choose love and connection.

I can’t do this on my own—I’ve tried.

Please grant me rest from striving and doing. Please touch the places in my heart that drive me to achieve, to initiate, to do do do.

Please teach me to care and not to care. Teach me to sit still.

Can you relate to this drive to accomplish? What if, anything, are you giving up for Lent? What do you hope to gain? 

Aly Lewis serves as Plant With Purpose’s Staff Writer and Grants Specialist.  She sleuths out funding opportunities, crafts proposals, and submits progress reports on funding received. She also writes ridiculously witty and yet still thoughtful and inspiring copy for a variety of communication pieces. Outside of work you can find her roller blading, showing off her dope hip hop moves, or overanalyzing her quarter life crisis. She has a passion for social and ecological justice, anyone who speaks Spanish, and experiencing the God of the unexpected. 

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