Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lent is Hard

What it is about the start of Lent that seems so daunting?  It really isn't the giving up of the foods (although some days I really do think a big cookie would make things better).  It's not the fasting from breakfast or the lack of snacking in between meals or even the abstinence from meat on Fridays. Sure, that's a part of it, and I'm sure it messes with my brain more than I think it will, but for me, it's something else.  It's the utter awareness of my human frailty that hits me smack in the face once that black, smudgy cross is smeared on my forehead on Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of this journey with Christ to Easter.

I'm weak.  I'm full of sin.  My thoughts aren't always pure.  My desires aren't always for love.  I fail...daily.  I sometimes don't even like the person who I know I am.  Not in a harsh way...just in a way in which I wish I were better.  And, it hits me really hard during Lent...especially in the beginning.

I gave up a few things.  I took on a few more.  And, I'm trying to find a meaningful way to give alms.  And, do you know what this first week has looked like...failure.  I've woken up with a sense of anxiety beyond what I typically the weight of the world is on my chest...the weight of my sins.  I've opened my Bible, journaled my thoughts, tried to make this Lent about praying for others...and I cannot ease my mind.  With each thing I do, I discover another area in which I could do better.  I'm on edge...rather the very edge, and waking to a new day doesn't give respite like I thought it would.

Instead, I'm losing my temper, being quick to snap at my kids, not having the patience I need with my husband, and in turn, thinking way too much about me...not the intent of my Lent whatsoever.

But is it really even my Lent (or is is His)?  Yes, it's about drawing near Christ...about shedding the burdens that pull us down and about opening our arms to His unending mercy.  But, why is it so difficult?

I believe it is because it is supposed to be.

If a sacrifice were easy, it wouldn't be much of a sacrifice would it?  Will my looking inward and being so ashamed of some of my sins ever compare to the pain of Mary losing her only Son in an offering to the whole world?  Will my sins ever feel like the weight of the world's the form of a its excruciating death?  No.  Not even slightly.

But, if I don't know that pain, that in comparison pales to His, I won't know His mercy.  I won't know the sweetness of forgiveness.

Lent is a time for change.  And, change can bring pain.  But, the desire to be know that we simply cannot do it all alone is exactly what the Devil does not want.  He wants that pain (however small it may seem when compared to Christ's) to cause us to give up.  He wants us to choose what's easier.  He wants us to fail.  And the draw to do so is enticing.  He wants us to feel that we're doing something wrong if life isn't always easy...that if we're just "good enough" suffering won't come.  He wants to link the suffering that truly draws us closer to Christ to the idea that we are doing it all wrong or that it's just too difficult a burden to bear.  Because when we give into that thinking, he has us.  But, it's all a lie.

So, of course Lent is hard, but it helps in knowing why.  God wants us, but so does the devil.  In it all, I have to remember that there isn't anything given to me that I cannot bear with Him.  But that is the key...I have to have Him...not just myself.  In all of this, my anxiety and frustrations and daily sufferings are miniscule...compared to His of course...but even compared to those around me. Regardless, in my life, they are my struggles...and a struggle is a struggle regardless of size if it hinders our walk with Him.

Thankfully, His mercy endures...and as I walk, He is right beside me...whispering to offer it all up and to keep moving forward.  And you know what?  It's gotten easier.  Those first few days were just some doozies.  However, He's come in the form of reminders from those I'd least expect it kids.

I was talking to the boys about loving people, and how sometimes it can be so, so difficult to love those who don't appear to love us in return.  It was then that Carter piped up, "Like loving the lady in Church who doesn't like to do the peace be with you with me and shaking her hand anyway."  He kissed her hand last time.  I had no clue he even sensed that she might not like to shake hands.  But, he rises above it.

Like Peter helping Sophie and John Paul get dressed without my asking even when it means keeping him from going to play as quickly as he would like.

Like Carter talking about an outlaw he had heard about back in the early days of our town, "I can't get him out of my head, and it bothers me.  So, I say, "Jesus, I offer these thoughts to you.  But, they aren't going away.  But, He will take care of it."

Like Peter "petting" (rubbing her head) Sophie when she is upset in order to try to calm her.

Like John Paul talking about Goliath in the forest, even though it was really Jesus in the desert we had just learned about (always providing comic relief).

They're teaching me...we must simply draw closer to Him through every aspect of our days, both good and especially bad.

May your Lent be filled with hard things...and through them, may you come to know His love and mercy unlike you've ever known it before!

In the meantime, I'll be praying to truly live this Litany of Humility:

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, 

Hear me. 

From the desire of being esteemed, 
Deliver me, O Jesus. 
From the desire of being loved, 
Deliver me, O Jesus. 
From the desire of being extolled, etc. 
From the desire of being honored, 
From the desire of being praised, 
From the desire of being preferred to others, 
From the desire of being consulted, 
From the desire of being approved, 
From the fear of being humiliated, 
From the fear of being despised, 
From the fear of suffering rebukes, 
From the fear of being calumniated, 
From the fear of being forgotten, 
From the fear of being ridiculed, 
From the fear of being wronged, 
From the fear of being suspected,

That others may be loved more than I, 

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. 
That others may be esteemed more than I, 
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. 
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase 
and I may decrease, etc. 
That others may be chosen and I set aside, 
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, 
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, 
provided that I may become as holy as I should.

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