Friday, February 19, 2010

Reluctantly, Joyfully Lent

As Fat Tuesday drew to a close this year, I could not deny the overwhelming sense of gloom I felt. The next day was Ash Wednesday and with it meant forty long days of suffering. Really long ones.

It hasn't been easy living through Ash Wednesdays and Lenten seasons of the past. During my first as a mother, my child was 4 days old and a month premature. We had just been delivered the glowing "suitcase" for his jaundice and were required to keep him in it 24 hours-a-day. My milk had just come in and I was an emotional basket case. I can recall collapsing into my husband as he returned home from work and breaking down into tears at the overwhelming task of parenting. It seemed like suffering was something we were already tackling in life, let alone Lent.

Other seasons of Lent were spent in Indiana, the world's grayest, snowiest, coldest, most dismal place to live through the months of February and March. I remember feeling about as cold and depressed as ever and discussing these feelings with my dear friend, Catherine, who was also observing the season. We were cold, spent mothers and we were ready for Easter.

So with this year returned these old feelings of the past. Perhaps its because as a mother, I feel that much of my daily living already involves sacrifice on many levels. Perhaps it is because I am a weak individual, which I am. Whatever the reason, I dread Lent. "Haven't you asked enough of me, my Lord?" I ask.

His response: "I want more."

I trudged forward through Ash Wednesday and made it through the day with my sanity in tact and my constitution resolute. Day two brought even more reassurance as my husband and I finished a delicious dinner followed by time spent together talking (the eye to eye kind), without distractions on the couch. We prayed and went to bed early.

Day three has been a continuation of this goodness--a fresh, rested wake-up, a new couple's devotional purchased for my husband and I to start tonight, quiet prayer time. I am surprised to be struck so early by my usual Lenten realization: when God asks me to sacrifice, the fruit of depravity is always much greater and more glorious than I ever imagined. Red and I discussed this the other day, reasoning that the first week of Lent is always the hardest and most dismal. After a few weeks of routined sacrifice, we become used to our newer way of life and begin realizing the grace in it that abounds.

Because there is grace and joy and happiness in Lent. We just have to be patient and wait and He will find us.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body." Proverbs 3:5-7


Kristen Laurence said...

"...the fruit of depravity is always much greater and more glorious than I ever imagined."

So true! Beautiful post, B-Mama.

AWOL Mommy said...

B, this is great, and I am feeling ya this Lent. What a blessing to have a season in our liturgical calendar that acknowledges our human need to start afresh. So much richer than an arbitrary 1 January flip of the calendar. I am grateful for this little window into your home and you are about as far from a weak person as I can imagine.

Right Said Red said...


Mary Alice said...

We are going without meat for the adults this Lent, and right now it is exciting, confusing, and challenging to figure out what to serve for dinner besides Baked Ziti! I am hopeful that this extended time of sacrifice will help me to incorporate one meatless-non-pasta recipe a week in the year that follows.

This is because I did not quite have the courage to give up what I really should -- television. I'll admit it, PBS is my babysitter and TLC is my late night laundry companion. One friend is doing stations and soup instead of friday pizza and movie night. Is it prudence or lack of generosity that brings me to decide that this would be too much to ask of myself and my family this year?

MBCW said...

B-Mama - would you be willing to share the name of the devotional you purchased? We've been looking for a couples devotional and don't quite know where to start.
Thanks in advance!

B-Mama said...

MBCW--The devotional I found is called "Devotions for Couples" by Patrick Morley and it seems to be a good one, going topic by topic and hitting on some practical ones for married couples. It has a short verse at the beginning, followed by a reflection, questions for discussion, application, and ending prayer. I picked it up at our local Christian bookstore.

I will say, though, after the first day, we've decided to return it! More because my husband was looking for something really "in the Word" rather than topically related. I guess I should have understood his expectations better before heading to the store! :) All in a good marriage, right?

We have instead chosen a study on Acts off of our bookshelf and have decided to tackle that together. It is one we did in a church study years ago and promises to be pretty in-depth and with greater scriptural focus. So far, so good.

Mary Alice, it sounds like you have chosen great areas of sacrifice for your Lent this year. I cannot imagine going meatless--I think my boys would love it, the vegetarians they are!! You'll have to see how things turn out and whether or not you want to adjust for next year's Lent. The TV and computer are two areas of great overindulgence for me, so I look to those first when deciding on Lenten sacrifices. I have not sacrificed them for my children, though, and would probably lose my sanity if I did!!

Joanne said...

Hey, *I* am living in Indiana through February and it's awful, you aren't kidding! I love this post, I am trying, trying, to have a more prayerful Lent and fighting the devil that makes me think that I have given up enough to these children! :)

Erin said...

Just the other day I was telling one of our friends here in sunny South Carolina what Lent was like in perma-cloud Indiana (Like B-mama, I spent 3 very gray, dismal Lents in South Bend). I noticed when I was telling this friend about the gloominess of February and March in Indiana I almost missed it. It was like a built in purging for the soul as you prepared for the springtime of Easter. Our lenten deprivation was complimented by miserable physical surrounding. Everything and everyone seemed to be sacrificing. And then, just as those first sunny days started peeking through, Jesus is resurrected and your soul rejoices with the new life of springtime around you. Just when you thought you couldn't take it anymore! Lent doesn't seem as real or tangible down here where it is sunny and beautiful every day.

Mary Alice: One of these years we are also going to give up T.V. We just don't have the courage or discipline to do it yet. Really, why does American Idol have to be on during Lent? This is the third of fourth year i've asked myself that question...and the answer is probably to provide me with a greater temptation to have to walk away from.

On a separate Lenten-note-- any one have ideas for "fasting" while pregnant? I try to limit sweet snacks on fasting days, and be more conscious about when and what I'm eating, but going without a meal or snack just isn't an option right now. As one of our priests said to me "that baby doesn't have to fast." However, I'd like to be a little more disciplined and/or creative about it to realize the spiritual fruits of deprivation even if i'm not depriving myself (or the baby) of actual calories. Between being pregnant and breastfeeding its been three Lents since I've actually fasted and I do miss the discipline.

Kat said...

Erin, I'm about to have a baby any day now and have been either pregnant or breastfeeding for every Lent over the past 7 years. So, complete fasting hasn't been an option for me, and I've also looked for other ways to supplement. Here are a couple of ideas:

If you're a coffee or tea drinker, drinking these items cold or without sugar.

Choosing a food that you would rather not eat over something that you really like - i.e. having a PB & J sandwich rather than tuna fish, etc.

Like you said, giving up sweet treats or salty treats for a day.

Fasting from TV during the day - rather than watching a cooking show during naptime, using the time for prayer or even just a nap!

I'm sure you've already thought of all of these, but maybe one of these is helpful! God bless!

Mary Alice said...

We have given up TV during Advent a few times and that was wonderful, it is such a busy and joyful season and since there never seems to be enough time, this is a way to steal some!

On the AI front, we forgot to watch this week, because of the Olympics, and I told my husband that I am ready to give it up! We had two seasons of devoted following, and while it was a fun date night in the middle of the week, I am really convinced that we need to make better use of our time, and this season just doesn't excite me, so now is the perfect time to kick the habit.

I just read this great post about TV and marriage:

I know that the Duggars were advised not to have TV during the first year of marriage and I think that is great advice!

Jennifer Frey said...

I wonder how many of us have survived a south bend winter or two. We should do a head count!

Anyway, this post hits close to home with me, and not just because of the SB connection. When Lent arrived this year, I thought (and still find myself thinking): Are you kidding me? I'm so sick, tired, vitamin-D deprived, and exhausted; does anyone really expect more of me right now? And I'll admit that unlike B-Mama, I haven't really struggled very hard to overcome that (though I should; thanks for reminding me). I feel miserable enough, I think to myself; I don't need to seek out sacrifice!!! My present life is penance enough! This is my constant thought as I try to struggle through another day of exhaustion and constant nausea.

It's a relief to know that others have felt the same way, and face the same struggles. Truly.