Happily Even After
My Lenten Insight
by Stacey Noem
I know that for the most part people get pretty focused on “making it a good Lent.” We “give something up” or “lay something down and take something up” or focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I feel like it’s not uncommon to give it a really good strong start and maybe not always finish the Lenten fast as well as we might have liked. The thing is, I went INTO this Lent mindful of that and all focused that this was not going to be the case for me.
Famous last words, right? Seriously. In retrospect I came to a really helpful realization about family life and prayer, though.
I started out pretty strong. Not as strong as I would have liked on the discernment end of deciding what I was going to “do.” I ended up giving up chocolate (so hard) and making a point of having one-on-one time with each of our three children each day. As the days and weeks got started I was doing pretty well. On the chocolate front I was SOLID for three good weeks. And while I wasn’t getting time alone with each of the children every day, I quickly realized that some good time with one of them each day, and in good rotation, was really pretty good. I was happy with that.
Then we took a family trip. Spring Break came and we were out of town “feasting” over a wedding weekend. I really don’t know what kind of switch got thrown in my head but after returning I had nothing in the way of conviction for my fast. Very strange for me. I am really not used to my will deserting me so entirely.
Joshua and our co-workers in Campus Ministry, being very well-trained lay and clergy, were quick to point out that falling short on my fast only highlights my need for God. And isn’t that the point of Lent anyway: acknowledging where and when we fall short and relying on God’s grace? I’m thinking, “Yes, that is the point – and nice theology at that – but I am a failure over here!”
So, I was NOT in a good place going into Holy Week and REALLY feeling it: just generally down and regretting my short-comings but feeling helpless about the lost time etc…Then on Wednesday I went to confession. Talk about relying on God’s grace – SO helpful! My confessor gently asked one or two clarifying questions that really helped me come to this realization about prayer and family life:
With a busy work and home life, I rely VERY heavily on the liturgical calendar to set a rhythm to my personal prayer. So when I let Lent “get away from me” I felt it very acutely because, for me, it was a lost opportunity. An opportunity I couldn’t get back. Life, very busy family life, was going to keep going and Easter was going to happen whether or not I had my spiritual life “right” or not.
Isn’t it true how little time we have to really focus our prayer and spiritual lives raising young children and balancing dual work schedules? I’ve come away from this experience with a renewed gratitude for our liturgical life in the Catholic Church. Hopefully I have also come away with a renewed focus as well.
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