The rhythms of our liturgical year have built in opportunities for careful self-reflection and resets within our lives to aid us in the overall process of growth. As the ashes are placed on our foreheads this Ash Wednesday and we enter into the Lenten season, we are reminded either “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Both are calls to conversion, to humbly entering more deeply into relationship with Jesus, allowing Him to continually reshape our lives by conforming our hearts to His Sacred Heart.
As I look back over my life, I have a sense of Jesus’ role in my life as being similar to stop-motion animation. I can see His hand in leading me to make many small adjustments over time that are resulting in overall big movement from where I started. He draws me to recognize both what I should be decreasing or turning away from, as well as what He is inviting me to as an alternative. As part of this process, I have recognized that it is common to make progress but then slip back over time. In those moments, it has been beneficial for me to have a reset — to remember what matters in life, recognize what is getting in the way, and then set strong boundaries for myself so that I can strip away that which leaves me feeling empty in favor of that which fills me.
Often, stripping away has entailed distractions or a tendency to lean towards excess, rather than moderation. It is about knowing my inclinations when I am exhausted. At the core, it is about shifting from doing to being. In the process of growth, Jesus has led me to better understand my inherent worth in Him, rather than worth being based on accomplishments or contributions. This has freed me to simplify in order to be more present to the relationships within my life.
Over the years, I have struggled with needing to reel in passions related to career and service beyond my family at the expense of time and energy that I should be pouring into nurturing my relationship with God or family. Along the way, God has helped me to realize that the extent of my commitments should be guided by my ability to serve with joy. I needed to recognize when I had committed so much at work that when I was home, I was unable to be present to my family and when I was at work I was unable to be present to my colleagues and students because of preoccupations with all that needed to be accomplished.
Growing towards proper prioritization can often be messy as we navigate different layers, and it is helpful to have guidance to support the process. In recent years, it was immensely helpful to have multiple priests talk to me about what proper prioritization looks like specifically for me — in my vocation and context of life. One of the most challenging layers in recent years was needing to hear and have reinforced that service for God is different than relationship with God. A priest mentioned to me, “#1 is not the same as #4” (with #2 being my husband and girls and #3 being my full-time career that is necessary to contribute to our family’s needs).
God has drawn me step by step towards growth, peace, and fulfillment. In order to enact changes, I have had to recognize the strength of the pull of pride, competition, and false sense of self-worth and counteract it with an on-going act of the will to instead choose humility, simplicity, and depth rooted in the confidence of my worth independent of what I do. Despite many positive changes, there is still more work to be done.
I step into this Lent with a sense of excitement for how my intentions, including some that we are doing collectively as a family, have the capacity to help us to grow in quality time with God and each other. I enter with a sense of hope in how God will continue to transform our hearts. I begin with a recognition that it won’t be easy and that it will stretch us as we persevere. All of these layers help me to acknowledge that this liturgical season holds great power for transformation and to recognize the beauty in becoming who God has created us to be.
What do you need to strip away this Lenten season in order to allow Jesus to take one more step towards the life He envisions for you? What do you need to simplify in order to discover the beauty contained within the core elements that you should be prioritizing within your specific life and vocation? What boundaries can you create this Lenten season to accept Jesus’ invitation for a rest that will support the discovery of something better than what is currently consuming too much of your time, energy and focus?
Copyright 2020 Amanda Villagómez