We are now a couple weeks into Lent — the period where a less-spiritually mature me used to take count and figure out if Lent would be a “success” this year. Looking back, I understood what I meant by a “successful Lent” — when viewed in terms of failing at what I’d sworn off, or succeeding in continuing to abstain from the particular year’s sacrifice.
However, in the past few years, I have had a radical shift in my approach to Lent. I have had the realization that, while supremely beneficial, Lent isn’t 100% about sacrifice.
Instead, it is about joining Christ in His suffering — from His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, the lasting gift of Himself which He bestowed at the Last Supper, the deep anguish He felt while utterly alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, to His final suffering throughout His Dolors.
Lent isn’t a “pass/fail.” It’s not as cut and dry as it seemed so many years ago. Too often, though, we seek to simplify our lives. While we certainly complain of the difficulty of our lives, we try to not dwell on the meaning behind the difficulty of “the road less traveled.” We choose to file complaints with Upper Management, or with each other, rather than focusing on the process of the journey of our lives. We overlook the reason for the process — the reason for the difficulties — instead of focusing on the end result of our lives here on earth, which is hopefully inclined toward being members of the Church Triumphant.
By now, all of us have undoubtedly identified our areas of weakness this Lent. Perhaps you are like me and have (yet again?) bitten off more than you can chew, and therefore already feeling defeated. Maybe you haven’t challenged yourself enough, and feel a craving to “do something more.” Better yet, perhaps you are someone who envisioned one Lent, and are experiencing a deeper, richer, far more rewarding Lent than you initially planned. Perhaps you are hanging on by the seat of your pants as one day passes to the next, and to the next, and so on.
Maybe you are struggling this Lent — physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Maybe this Lent is cutting you dry, tearing at the seams of your emotional and/or spiritual fabric.
Given our human tendency to dwell on complaints of plans gone awry in life, or changes to how we envision our path to holiness, this is the time in Lent where we can assess how our journey is unfolding. Not just the journey of Lent, but also our journey of life.
Our lives are messy, both literally and figuratively. It seems like just last month, we were making New Year’s Resolutions aimed at making our lives a little less messy. And yet, I would wager to bet your life, like mine, is still messy. Maybe not with the same clutter at the beginning of 2018, but maybe the dust bunnies in your life multiplied in ways only they can imagine.
As we continue on our Lenten journey, both as a Catholic community and an individual seeking some order in our lives, some ease in our lives, I propose that we stop complaining about our messes. I propose, as we continue on our Lenten journey, that we embrace the messiness in our lives.
For those of us in marriage, that means we overlook the minor irritations and annoyances of our spouse. Instead, honor the vow you made to each other, and to God Himself, to help your spouse achieve sainthood. Give your spouse credit for the things your spouse does do for your family, rather than dwelling on what you perceive they do not do for the marriage. It means giving your spouse a pass — to allow them times to fail, and instead of complaining about that failure, to help lift them up so that they are standing again.
For those of us with children, that means we graciously accept the mess they bring into our lives — the mess of tantrums or meltdowns. The mess of defiance, in which we feel our irritation rising as we tackle the difficult behavior. It means graciously embracing the mess of schedules thrown off kilter because they couldn’t find their shoes, or their socks, or the shirt they took off right after you helped them put it on. Instead of complaining about the parenthood aspect of life, we acknowledge and recognize the little saintly being we have been charged with leading to Christ.
For those employed in a job which feels as though it is sucking the very soul and life from us, it means we recognize the little moments of Christ acting in our midst. It means putting our all into that job, acting as Christ toward others, and allowing ourselves to be pulled closer to Christ during the difficult moments. It means offering up prayers for the struggle of the difficulty.
The challenge the rest of this Lent should not be to focus on “success.” Rather, it should be to focus on how the journey is uniting each of us with our Savior. We are entering a period of suffering – both within our lives, and the life He willingly gave for love of each of us. As we attempt to draw closer to Christ and walk with Him, let us not focus on the minor irritations of our day in and day out routines.
Instead, let us join with Him, and offer Him the difficulty of our journey, keeping Him at the forefront of our minds.
Lent is not about our success versus failure. Instead, it is about leading us closer to Christ. It is about learning more about our own spiritual journey, and figuring out how to grow into a deeper relationship with Him. Lent is less about reward in the earthly sense, and more about the process – and, how we hope to achieve eternity as our end result.
As Lieutenant General (Retired) Hal Moore once told a reporter on EWTN, “I am in the business of eternity, and I hope I am successful in that business.”
Will you join me in choosing to shift your own mindset about Lent, and focus on the process of our journey? How will you keep in mind “eternity,” rather than the temporary, fleeting comforts of this earthly life?
How have you already entered a deeper relationship with Christ this Lent? And, going forward, how will you delve deeper into a relationship with Christ through the duration of Lent 2018?
Copyright 2018 AnnAliese Harry