p a x
Lent is a season that pushes us out of our comfort zones and asks us to dig deep and feel the burn of denying ourselves so that we can follow Christ better.
That being said, it is also my least favorite season…probably because I need it so much.
I think it was about my sophomore year of college when Lent finally “clicked” with me. It wasn’t just about giving up cable TV or chocolate for 6 weeks… it was a journey into deeper intimacy with the Lord. And as I came to understand it as a journey, I also realized how important it was to prepare for that walk in the desert.
I’d prepare by spending some extra time in prayer, usually in the adoration chapel, journaling my Lenten commitments so that I had a clear goal in mind. And the preparations weren’t limited to prayer; I would also try to get my living space as clean as possible before the Lenten journey began. Sometimes I would rearrange the furniture in my bedroom, or just give it an early spring cleaning. This was a way for me to enter into Lent with a breath of fresh air, a renewed mindset, and the visual difference in my environment helped me to focus on the fact that I was entering into a whole new season.
Oh the glorious Lenten preparations of my life as a single woman in my early twenties!
Fast forward about ten years.
Married, two kids 2 and under, working full-time, and my husband and my daughter catch the flu (or something) a few days before Ash Wednesday.
I made plans early in the week to clean our bedroom, the living room, the kitchen…. I was going to journal, perhaps even write my first blog post for the year to kick off the season with a bang! Maybe I’d get some extra time in the prayer space my husband created for me for my birthday. Such plans!!!
Tuesday night I found myself in a living room of unfolded laundry, mountains of tissues, a fussy toddler, and after kids were asleep I had to run up to the Church to get some things set up for the Ash Wednesday Masses the next morning. Though I did manage to get to the sacrament of reconciliation that evening, by the end of the day I mostly felt disappointed.
I wasn’t ready. How on earth could I possibly have a good Lent if my house is dirty, my family is sick, and I haven’t spent time in prolonged silent prayer? And to top it off I could feel the cold coming after me too! I went to bed frustrated and thought, If I can’t start Lent perfectly, according to my plan then what’s the point?!
In those final moments of the day, I realized that perhaps I’d been focusing too much on starting Lent perfectly. I had been trying so hard to replicate the “perfect preparations” of my early 20s that I had forgotten to ask God to help me in the here and now. I’m not who I was at 19, 20, or 21 years old. My relationship with God and my spiritual life have changed a lot even since getting married 3 years ago! Why would I expect to start this journey in the same way I had almost a decade before?
I had forgotten that God doesn’t ask us to enter into Lent with a clean slate and then maintain perfection until Easter Sunday. No, instead He invites us to take up our cross, wherever we are, and follow Him. He invites us to turn towards Him with our mess, our pain, our weakness so that through the Lenten journey He c
an make us new.
Do I have an idea of the praying, fasting and almsgiving that God is calling me to offer this Lenten season? Yes. Am I perfectly prepared for what’s ahead these next 6 weeks? Nope. And that’s OK.
Lord, meet us in our mess this Lent.
Meet us in the chaos, the confusion, the messy house.
Meet us in the snot covered noses of our children,
and the never ending lists of things to do.
Draw us close to you, even though we are imperfect.
Lord, you make all things new. Make us new this Lenten season.