This seems to happen to me every year. I think out my Lent, trying to be sure the sacrifices I plan to make are going to be worthwhile and help me grow.
But Lent has an interesting way of evolving well beyond what I think I need to work on into what God knows I truly need to experience to become a better person. I don’t think I’m the only person this happens to.
In many ways, for me, this has something to do with the time of year. I realize the transition from winter to spring is different in various regions, and that in the Southern Hemisphere it’s actually the inverse of what we experience here in the States. But I think God has a way of placing us where our experiences will speak most to our development, if we bother to pay attention.
Living where the Midwest meets the Northeast in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Lenten time is full of weather. There can be heavy snows, bitter cold, unseasonably sunny, warm days, rain that’ll make you consider building an ark, and enough ice to freeze your soul. This year it was cold, snow and ice. And wind. I hate freezing winds. They make me hole up at home, want to cancel everything and wrap up in blankets.
But I see this as God reminding me that, cold or not, life must go on. I have a way of wanting to hide from the world when I feel overwhelmed. I do this more than I should. This year, God seemed to match the yuckiest winter weather with things I wanted to do most. I survived the weather to enjoy them. I can still feel the cold ripping through my coat as I walked through town to a Pittsburgh Penguins game on a -10 evening. God’s note to me that “this too shall pass. Now get your butt out there and live.”
God also wants me to remember I am capable of handling things. Last Lent, a pipe burst in my basement, with the husband out of reach for the day. It was mental recall on the crisis management skills. I held it together – with some minor freaking out – until the pipe could be fixed. This year, it was a broken toilet. Upstairs. With less personal composure.
Lent is also a time of year when my daughters , 9 and 10 years old, get terribly busy with activities. Birthday parties, sports start ups for spring, fund raisers for school, Girl Scout Cookie sales, managing what they gave up for Lent, and so on. I forget something I’m supposed to do for them daily. God’s way of telling me to get my life under control? I’ll never admit it, but organization isn’t exactly my strong suit.
Then there’s the unavoidable illnesses that come from the winter/spring transition, the messiness and muddyness of having multiple pets and living in the country, transportation issues related not having a paved driveway or living on a paved road…..you know, those little things were not supposed to sweat. God knows that’s a struggle for me too. This year, kids losing gloves, or shoes or boots or coats or homework was enough to send me to the funny farm. I think God enjoys working with the girls to find new challenges to my sanity – they truly can be funny in retrospect. And I was good heartedly reminded this Lent to be patient.
It seems to me that the biggest challenges facing me seem to come to a head during Lent. Maybe you have noticed this too, where ever it is you are on your path. My need to practice patience, push myself, pull myself together and stop being so fatalistic define me as winter becomes spring. And as God throws these challenges at me, I learn more about who I am than I do by simply trying to curb my Diet Coke habit.
This year, for the first time, it occurred to me that God may have designed my life this way. Perhaps He has guided us all to places where we will face the greatest challenges as we become who we are. Maybe He steps it up during Lent. Maybe if we pay better attention to the subtleties of our lives – where we live, what annoys us, what lifts us, who we’re surrounded by – we can find more fulfillment in our Lenten journeys.
As for the Diet Coke, I slipped the first week of Lent.