Lent 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

 
"Look at me, Mama. I'm Jesus on the Cross."

I had big plans this Lent. I forget now what I originally intended to do, but suffice it to say, I was going to be a saint by the time the 40 days were up. 

With my temperament (choleric), I tend to really thrive with goals and to-do lists, so when things like New Year's and Lent roll around, I'm usually all over the resolutions. Not too surprisingly, I tend to bite off more than I can chew.

Like I said, I had all sorts of lofty plans of prayer and penitence that I wanted to accomplish this Lent. Then two things happened. 

First Ash Wednesday happened.  Losing my temper really forced me to take a long, hard look at myself and my failings. I realized that the very qualities of my temperament that are often seen as positive (and they very well can be positive) are also those that can lead me away from holiness. The seemingly endless desire to go, go, go and the drive towards perfection can also translate into a disordered preoccupation with outward appearances. Needless to say, being so caught up in how others perceive me can often mean I neglect my interior, namely spiritual, life.

Secondly, I read a blog post by Leila at Like Mother, Like Mother. Her Lenten recommendations for mothers with young children really helped me to reevaluate my expectations for myself. She gently suggests to avoid taking your phone to bed and to choose one chore that you tend to avoid and to tackle it with determination and joy. She writes"Better than sacrifices, better than burnt offerings, will be, in the sight of the Lord, your cheerful determination to tackle a duty of yours and master it. "

It wasn't so much what she suggested, but how. Perhaps I am wrong, but I felt she was intimating that for mothers with young children, our daily lives already include a great deal of self-sacrifice and that because of this, if we simply live our daily duties well, we will live a successful Lent. Maybe it wasn't her intent, but I felt as if I had permission to go a bit easier on myself. And not easier as in slacker, but easier as in gentler.  

I loved that she added, "I know, these aren’t immensely impressive Lenten practices. Where is the hard bed in the cold stone room? Where is the bread and water? Sackcloth? Ashes? But maybe one of these little steps will result in a fruitful Lent for you." 

I tend to want the sackcloth and ashes and aspire to the "hard bed in the cold stone room." And not that these sacrifices are wrong or don't have their rightful place, but it dawned on me, that as a mother with young children, these are most likely not the penances the Lord is asking of me, at least at this stage of my life. Maybe in 20 years, but not now.

After my Ash Wednesday experience and reading Leila's blog post, I decided to actually pray about it and to actually ask Jesus what he wants of me this Lent. Novel idea to actually pray about it, I know. And I felt he was asking me to slow down, to spend more time with my children and to enjoy them. They are blessings, after all. 

So my plans for the remainder of Lent are to resist the urge to busy myself, to incorporate more daily prayer into my life and to focus on enjoying my children. (I've given up a couple of things too, but no one needs to hear about that.) I have a hard time taking the time to just sit with my children, so I've resolved to spend quality time with one of them each day and either play or read or cuddle. I know that doesn't sound like much, but I feel this is what is being asked of me right now.

And I have found the less I worry about what must be done and of what others think of me, the more interior peace I have. My soul has become more settled and more content. I am hoping this will eventually lead to experiencing more Christian joy. Joy is my "word" and aspiration for this year. But more about that another time.

It may prove to be a fruitful Lent after all. 

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