Lent has arrived with its quiet dusting of ashes and with the hushed call to repent. I’ve learned to love the season of Lent for its somber silences. Deacon Ron has asked me to expand beyond my prescribed 30 minutes a day silently spent in the church. Some days I can sit quietly but many days I wander the Stations of the Cross or meander through the little shrines. On one of my restless days, I took this photo. Outside was a clear, sunny day and the sunlight was streaming through the windows painting the dim church with brilliant colors. But it was this reflection on the floor that caught and held my attention. The bright colors of the window appear on the marble floor but there they are muted and flecked by the patterns of the stone. God handed me a beautiful metaphor. I love it when He does that. It’s one of the ways I’ve learned to recognize that He shows His love for me in ways I could never imagine.
Like the reflection on the floor, Lent is a time for me to reflect on my spiritual flecks, my imperfections, each having their regrettable and hard-to-forget patterns. That’s a lot of reflecting to do. What I’ve found over time is that there are some areas of my heart that I don’t like to think about. I push these thoughts aside and go on improving what doesn’t need improving. God just waits patiently, knowing sooner or later, something will trip up my denial and I’ll be face-to-face with those pieces of myself that I’ve worked so hard to cover up, much the way I used to try to hide adolescent blemishes with every make-up trick known to women. And just like the make-up, my spiritual cover-ups don’t hide much either. What do I do now? Cry usually. Then rant, rave, write madly in my journals, go back to God and tell Him its all His fault because, damn it, He made me this way.
When I’m finally ready to be honest with myself and with God, I admit that I’ve struggled for years with my Irish temper and my lack of patience. I’m honest with myself about my judgmental tendencies both toward others and toward me (see the Prodigal Daughter and the Gremlin posts). What I’m not so quick to admit is that I am a spiritual spoiled brat. It goes way beyond spiritual naiveté. I’m still looking for a Daddy-like God who will make it all better, make all the bad stuff go away, and make it all nice for me. Now I’m grown up enough to know better and I’ll accept that God doesn’t work that way, but I’m still going to whine about it first.
I’ve worked very hard to at least become mindful of my temper and impatience. I have returned to the Sacrament of Reconciliation because I know I need that reassurance of the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. I know that He can heal my wounded heart, which often exacerbates my unloving actions. I also know that He can heal those that I have hurt by my actions or inactions, and that relieves me of my guilt.
But no matter how polished my stony heart becomes, there will always be imperfections because like everyone else in Creation, I’m a flawed human being. But that’s just it. God created me to be a human being, not a human doing. He doesn’t hand me a quarterly performance review with an improvement plan attached to it. He asks only that I have an open, honest, loving relationship with Him. When I do, I reflect His love outward towards others. That reflection is muted and flecked by my imperfections but the beauty of His love shines on me anyway and the stains become less noticeable. No cover up required.