My grand vision for Lent lasted about 8 hours, 5 minutes.
Technically it began to unravel an hour and a half before that.
The short explanation - I overslept, the dishwasher went belly-up, and Ainsley fell and bumped her head. I had plans for a quiet, private prayer time followed by a quiet, family prayer time and concluding with a peaceful breakfast and drive to school. What I got was the usual morning mayhem accompanied by a major meltdown (mine).
At my women’s prayer group the other day, my friend Amy and I were discussing our desire for a good Lent, a fruitful Lent. It’s been a few years since I’ve entered this season with much of a vision. For two of the last three Lenten seasons, I have been battling the tail-end of morning sickness. I haven’t given up a thing, nor have I taken on much. Early pregnancy for me is all the penance I can handle. Some days just putting one foot in front of the other seems a herculean feat. I remember lying in a semi-fetal position staring at a pile of laundry and saying, “In ten minutes I’ll fold it. In ten minutes I’ll fold it.”
This year I am well and – as far as I know – not pregnant. I have been looking forward to a season of prayer and fasting.
Since Advent I have been dwelling on the excesses in my life – the excessive stuff, the excessive pounds, the excessive indulgences, the excessive temper tantrums (once again, mine).
On every front, I am more than ready to pare down.
I am taking on Danielle Bean’s “Forty Bags for Forty Days,” because in a physical sense I want to unload. But more than that, I am in desperate need of a spiritual unload. My prayer life has been spotty, to say the least. Now more than ever, I thirst for time alone with God. I thirst for the sacraments. I want to be nourished by the body and blood of Christ.
Despite 12 years of marriage and children, I still picture a quiet, prayerful, simple Lent. Daily Mass and Stations of the Cross. Time set aside for meditation. You know, maybe a subtle hint of incense wafting through the house. Needless to say, in this stage of my life, this vision just ain’t meshing with reality.
A while back a friend of mine shared a word of wisdom: Let your effort be your goal. Rather than pursuing a lengthy check list of devotions, strive instead to do, as Mother Teresa used to say, “small things with great love.”
This version of the perfect Lent, a Lent of modest prayer and peaceful relationships, would all be quite doable and fruitful if it weren’t for one pesky, persistent obstacle – me. This is a season in which I need to take seriously the Psalmist’s admonition “to rend your hearts and not your garments.”
I need to set aside my vision and simply love – God, my family, my neighbor. This is one area that can’t lead to excess, that requires no paring down.