“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” – Ps. 51:19

People who suffer from chronic migraines develop a routine for coping with them as soon as they emerge: dealing with light sensitivity, nausea, and the headache pain. As a kid, my sister would leave school early to lie in a dark room to fight off the headache storm. In college, the rest of our apartment was swapping stories of neurologists, prescription migraine medications, and acupressure bands. These all-consuming, crippling headaches changed the course of their days.

For the past several weeks I’ve been getting dull headaches in the afternoon: a combination of needing a new eyeglass prescription, not drinking enough water, and being woken up in the middle of the night by a demanding toddler. When I fasted this Ash Wednesday, that afternoon headache was even worse and everything I tried to curb the dull ache did not seem to help: Advil, water, a simple vegetable broth soup, getting away from the glare of overhead fluorescent lights.

When I began my fast on Ash Wednesday morning, I had no expectation that God would meet me in that fasting. By that evening, the headache really nestled in to stay, and I was struck that for weeks I’ve been too busy to deal with the causes of the headaches. I’ve been limping along trying to troubleshoot them rather than confronting the root issues.

The false spirit works like this for me. It sneaks in like a dull headache and convinces me that there is no other way to live. My shortcomings and anxieties become something to “deal with” and I spend all this energy working around them rather than facing them head on. It’s time to call the eye doctor for me and the lactation specialist to help with the baby weaning.

Ash Wednesday opened my eyes more clearly to those crutches, and each day of the Lenten season (especially the Fridays) continues to be a deepening of that invitation to let go of any attachment to my own way of doing things.

Am I satisfied ignoring whatever dull aches occupy my mind and heart? Is God nudging his way in to reveal something more?

Jen Coito

Photo Credit: Alexander Mils