Some years, Lent is quiet and reflective. Some years it’s a struggle. This year, thus far, it has been a swift kick in the ass. Ash Wednesday really hurt and while I’d like to say it happened, it hurt, I’m okay now, and walk away from it, I can’t. Because if I won’t take the time to understand what broke loose that night, I’m just going through the motions and at that point, the weight of this holy season would be completely lost on me.
I learned some things that night:
1) I have panic triggers I didn’t know even know existed, even after seven years out. This scares me.
2) I have incredible, supportive, faith-filled friends and family. This encourages me beyond words. I love you all.
3) I was lazy, dishonest and prideful Wednesday night and I paid a heavy price for that.
These three things will take a lot of working through over the remaining 37 days of Lent.
I have my list of excuses. I was legitimately exhausted, having not slept Tuesday night. It was dark and brutally cold. I opted to drive the mile to my old familiar Catholic parish rather than the ten miles to my Lutheran church. Even though I brought my mother to Mass, I didn’t want to tell her that I would rather go somewhere else for Mass because I didn’t want admit anything that even remotely resembled weakness. I stayed in a situation that I realized would be difficult because of territorial pride. This was my parish first! I was here since childhood! How dare this interloper come in and take over!
I set myself up and I got knocked down hard. It was a wake up call I needed. Showing up in my Catholic parish because I didn’t feel like dragging my sorry self to the next town over for Lutheran services is nothing less than spiritually lazy and worse, spiritually dishonest. Bringing my mother to Mass is a good thing and had that alone been my reason, all would be well. But settling for what is convenient, familiar and, therefore, comfortable is wrong. I can’t continue with a foot on either side of the line. I’ve always been an all or nothing kind of girl. In or out. Yes or no. Can I accept all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches and professes? No. Okay, then I need to be out and quit running back because it’s a mile away and I’m quite fond of the pastor. Those are not valid reasons to be there.
It took me about a day to fully reset the emotional switches after Ash Wednesday but I learned a hard lesson in love and trust. It’s easy to love and to trust when things are going good. But when the bottom drops out unexpectedly, when I get clobbered with far more than I can handle, can I love and trust Him even then? More than that, can I let Him love me, even when it scares me to admit I screwed up? Yes. God doesn’t want perfect. He wants honest. He can work with honest. And I needed to learn that – again – for the hundredth time – and God knows, I learn everything the hard way.
What does all that mean for the next 37 days? I don’t know yet. This year Lent for me has slowed to a one-day-at-a-time crawl. And that’s okay. I got knocked down and I will crawl until I can walk and walk until I can dance.