Easter is here! Alleluia!
If there’s one thing Easter celebrations excel at, it’s reminding me God is the Lord of the Resurrection. There is nothing so bad, twisted, useless, or lifeless that God can’t resuscitate. That’s true of death itself (which kind used to be the final word on things), and that’s true even of my failures.
This is good news, because I fail with some frequency.
Take Lent, for instance.
Lent began piously enough. I prayed about what to give up or commit to, and set some achievable goals. A little less computer time here, a bit more spiritual reading there, healthier snacks—and boom! Lent.
Then Lent gave way to the splendor of the Triduum, and Easter morning arrived in a burst of glory: Praise God! Alleluia! Jesus reigns!
We’re still fresh into Easter joy, but I’m aware of a certain heaviness in my heart. There could be a number of reasons for this heaviness:
- I observed Lent so brilliantly that the pallor of asceticism needs more time to wear off. Well, probably not.
- I am suffering from chronic Catholic guilt, knowing I could have observed Lent much more vigorously. That kind of scrupulosity isn’t always helpful.
- A little of both. Intriguing! I observed Lent quite well in some respects but poorly in others? Let’s explore this.
When I made my Lenten promise to eat fewer snacks, and healthier ones, I was full of genuine spiritual zeal. I HATE preparing food, so eating healthier, for me, is tedious and irritating. Instead of simply grabbing a handful of pretzels that can live in the pantry for months, I must go to the market, buy fresh broccoli, wash it, cut it, clean up after myself, then nibble. Torture! (Yes, my husband agrees with you: I am pathetic.)
Given my aversion to food preparation, healthy snacking was a truly noble path to Lenten holiness for me. And I fulfilled my promise well.
So why is my Easter rejoicing compromised?
Perhaps Easter is falling short because Lent fell short. Although I followed my promise religiously (ha! Lent pun!), maybe—just maybe—I had made that promise with mixed motives.
On Ash Wednesday, I said to myself, I will follow this promise to draw closer to Christ. Isn’t that lovely? Here’s what I didn’t admit to myself: Won’t it be fabulous to lose a few pounds in the process?!
I remember once, in preparation to hang picture frames, I drew a line with a straightedge on a wall. The line was perfectly straight, but my measurements had been slightly off, making my straight-as-an-arrow line comically slanted. I mean, like, so obviously diagonal that anyone would wonder how I couldn’t have noticed the slope as I glided my pencil along the straightedge.
My Lenten promise reminds me of that crazy line. In promising to eat healthy foods, I was twisting Lent to my own purposes. Part of me wanted to allow my Lenten sacrifice to make my heart more like Jesus’ Heart; my curves wanted my Lenten sacrifice to get me in my old jeans.
My jeans were no easier to yank up on Easter Morning than Ash Wednesday. Thus, I feel heavy, literally and figuratively.
I made Lent in my own image, instead of letting God remake me.
There’s no going back now. So here’s how I will pray into Easter: I did some things well, Jesus. But how can you resurrect my Lent? My imperfect, impure, sad little Lent?
Jesus responds, inviting me to be attentive to how I felt during my imperfect Lent.
- I felt inadequate, when I compared my Lenten promises to what others—even my children—vowed to do for 40 days.
- I felt unfaithful, when broccoli made me think more about my waistline than the Passion of Christ.
- I felt sad, when I contemplated how blessed I am to have access to healthy food, unlike millions of other people.
- I felt weak, when I suspected I could be doing more for Jesus.
Jesus responds, pointing me to the Gospels, showing me how his tortured Heart agonizes over these very infirmities: inadequacy, infidelity, grief, weakness.
“My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”
The voice that cried out those words belongs to a man who understands my heavy heart. At first glance, death on a criminal’s cross looks a lot like failure. Lent let me taste a similar failure.
My Lenten failures, given over to the God of the Resurrection, can bring me closer to the Lord. For a Christian, success does not always look like a brilliantly completed to-do list. Sometimes, failure—with Jesus—is exactly what God gives to us to know his son more intimately.
© 2015 Grace Mazza Urbanski
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