It never ceases to amaze me that although time does in fact fly by quickly, most of one’s life experiences are quite similar and only differ in the details. Driving back from Syracuse with our two year old grandson in tow last week, I was poignantly reminded of the many trips my husband and I took with our own crew of four. Back in the “olden” days, we had to have plenty of books to read, cookies and other treats were stored in my “I don’t care if I lose the top” Tupperware containers, paper napkins, crossword puzzles, coloring books and crayons, and toys… lots and lots of toys! Sometimes we had so many toys crammed into the backseats of our station wagon they would fall out during our many rest area breaks and I just ignored them. Car seats were not even a thought!
Compare those days with today’s modern family car trips. When meeting our daughter at the rendezvous point to pick up Alex, we were given the all important car seat with the manicure destroying harness and a 25 pound diaper bag filled with medicines, emergency numbers, a smorgasbord of his favorite prepackaged snack foods, and his day and nighttime diapers – not to be confused with the swimmie diapers. Once my husband had safely stowed the essentials in the back seat, she proceeded to strap on the most important car trip item for the modern family– the portable DVD player. Of course she had to teach us how to turn on this player, and which buttons to push to fast forward past the credits, but she assured us this would keep him entertained for most of the car trip. She was not wrong!
There was no separation anxiety on his behalf, although his mom looked a bit worse for wear. He had his favorite stuffed animal snug between his arms, his Papa driving, and a sippy cup filled with his favorite juice – he was ready to be entertained. As a surprise, our daughter had purchased a collection of old cartoons for him to watch. There was Felix the Cat, Popeye the Sailor Man, Baby Huey, Tom and Jerry, and even Little LuLu…I would be lying if I didn’t say all three of us enjoyed the trip home. Alex laughed to the antics of Felix dancing on a wooden fence pole, and my husband and I enjoyed both his laughter and our memories of watching these same cartoons with our own children. About four hours into the trip, when Alex finally dozed off, I glanced over at my husband and the sense of déjà vu was very strong. We had done before, and to me it didn’t seem all that many years ago.
This feeling of time passing too quickly is one I experience every Lent too. No matter how committed I am to following through each year with the intentions I set forward, somehow time gets away from me. As the end of Lent approaches, I always seem to feel as if I have not done my best. Oh I had many good reasons for this – in grade school it was because I gave up something “too hard”. In college I was always “too” busy, and as a young mother – well that speaks for itself. Only a mother can tell you how short the forty days of Lent truly are. Before you can say “forgive me Father, for I have sinned”, Holy Thursday has arrived and the children are beside themselves with Easter Fever. I was lucky to do the Stations of the Cross on Friday evenings and find ten minutes of solitude to pray every day.
This Ash Wednesday I chose two goals. One was based on the lofty guiding principal of why Catholics love this season of denial – to lose twenty pounds by giving up my favorite snacks. My second goal was to become closer to Christ. Ironically, upon reading my newest diet book I came across this Chinese Proverb:
“If you are in a hurry, you will never get there”.
I have not come close to accomplishing my first goal, but this proverb rang true for my second. If I rush through Lent I may never get to where I want to be, which is in a deeper relationship with Christ. Time will escape – that is an unavoidable casualty of living. Details, schedules, and people will continue to band together in a concerted effort to derail my best laid plans. Only now do I understand this is part of everyone’s life.
Meditating on my shortcomings, which I find myself doing quite often, I have come to one conclusion…God is willing to let me take as long as I need. He knows I can do better, and more importantly, He knows I will try to do better. Maybe this Lent wasn’t perfect, but I am not perfect. I do know that I need Him near me when I become lonely, to talk to me when I feel frustrated, to listen to me when no one else seems to even hear me, and to forgive me for the thousand ways I hurt Him every day. Lent is a beautiful season where we come to a closer understanding of our relationship with God, but it is the beginning.
I understand Lent, like preparing for family car trips, are just the beginning of a long journey. Every year the details of how I plan to prepare for Easter may change, but my goal to know God better has remained constant. I may never complete the journey the way I envision on Ash Wednesday, but I will always try, because I do want to be with Christ! I want to be able to gaze on His face when I die, and feel that same sense of déjà vu – knowing that He was always right beside me on my many Lenten journeys, waiting for me to know Him, an
d welcoming me home.