Friday, March 22, 2013

A Different Kind of Lent

(I actually started this post a week ago, but life and a toddler's earache got in the way!). 

A few years ago, my local bishop gave a talk on the topic of Lent.  He compared the annual season to a spiral staircase; each year was another step, winding up and down through our lives.  

Recently, I've really come to appreciate his image.  Some Lents go more smoothly than others.  Last year, the few Lenten goals my husband and I had set came to a screeching halt after my miscarriage.  After those terrible two weeks, I’m glad we even made it to Easter.  Other years have been more fruitful, the result of practicing a goal for the 40 days.  The single days and college Lents went well too.  But simply enduring another round of “Pan de Vida” without running in terror should count as penance, right?

This year, Lent is a bit different.  And that’s OK.  Being in the final trimester of a pregnancy and dealing with a strong-willed 2-year-old has been harder than I thought.  In fact, it’s an accomplishment if I can get through the day without losing my mind or temper. Thus, my Lenten practices are practically non-existent.  I’m grateful to have been spared fasting.   My husband and I have eaten the Girl Scout Cookies.  But at the same time, we’re dealing with the adjusting life of disciplining a toddler, preparation for a baby, SLEEP WAR Part 1 (more about that in a future post), and the little aches along the way. And we especially know that a few weeks from now, we will be balancing care of a needy newborn with an energetic toddler, while I recover from surgery.

Sometimes life hands us sufferings or periods of hardship.  Or, more accurately, Lent comes to you.  In the past three months, a friend lost her baby at 24 weeks gestation, another friend’s father passed away after a battle with cancer, and my own uncle is battling cancer while my aunt tries to care for him.  I think of my years of infertility, and of the friends and family members walking that journey right now.  

I’m not a fan of the classical pious images of Jesus on the way to His crucifixion: a barely bloody man, gazing up at the sky as if watching a comet.  Movies such as The Passion of the Christ give a more realistic (albeit very graphic) image of what He endured.  I also don’t appreciate the saints whose writings chastise us for not skipping joyfully to pick up our individual crosses, because apparently Jesus did.  Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but there are saints who seem to like suffering a bit too much.  Instead, I think the images of the Passion of the Christ show suffering like an athlete whose eye is on the prize, getting through difficulty after difficulty.

Our big battle will be getting KB through the Easter Vigil at my husband’s parish.  One of his cousins is becoming Catholic, so we want to celebrate the occasion.  The curmudgeon in me wonders how long KB will stay awake and if the parish will make us sit through all 9 readings (yes, I know how symbolic they are, but the length of each one is rather extreme!!).

So this Lent has been a bit nonexistent in the staircase.  And that’s OK.  Really, my spiritual director said so. J  There will be future Lents for fish frys (we can’t go right now as KB doesn’t behave), setting goals, or special crafts like my mom did in our school age years.  

And that’s OK.  Time to take another step.