I was going to double down on Lent this week.
I had big plans, flush with grace from surviving Palm Sunday’s armed liturgy, sweating with the exertion of having spent 90 minutes sit-stand-and kneeling + slapping palm ‘swords’ out of my toddlers’ (and not-so-toddler-sized kids’, ahem) fists.
My prayer after communion went something like:
I could have done a better job at Lent, Lord. I’m sorry. I’m going to really mean it this week. For one week – Holy Week – surely I can be the best version of my Lenten self.
I imagine God, at this point, winking at St. Peter (or maybe St. John Paul II, in my case) leaning over and mouthing “hold my beer” whilst rolling up His spotless sleeves and queuing up a mighty fine lineup of golden opportunities for me to make good on my offer to finish Lent with a bang.
You know when you pray for patience and your internet goes out for 4 days? Or something along those lines. Well, 2 days into Holy Week and I’m feeling preeeetty divinely spoiled by the myriad opportunities to unite my own pathetic sufferings to Christ.
God knows what I can handle. He knows that for all my spiritual bravado, I’m notorious for crumbling under the slightest pressure. I think (I hope?) He finds it endearing. Kind of the way I enjoy Luke’s efforts to help me “clean” using a stolen bottle of Windex.
So instead of cancer and car accidents, He sends croup and power outages that cut off humidifiers and sound machines at 2 and 4 and 5 am. A barfing cat and a dwindling bank account and a broken espresso machine and a computer battery that will no longer hold a charge on its own the very same week the charging cable crapped out.
And if I manage to check myself before I launch into an internal temper tantrum over the very foremost of first world problems (my espresso machine is broken. Privilege level: platinum), I can recognize that God is throwing me a big ‘ol softball here.
But piled up all together? Man, even these teeny splinters of problems – when there are enough of them – can feel like they add up to the weight of a cross.
And I’m notorious for trying to carry it by myself.
He has been reminding me this week with every waking child, every mediocre cup of french press, and every sibling fight broken up whilst the Hunger Games of spring break unfolds in my living room – that I don’t have to. That I can’t.
That nothing that I plan on offering up is anywhere near as effective as the things that I have to accept from Him, willingly – if not always joyfully – as His will over my own.
I wanted to give up snacking between meals. But I’m a quasi-nursing mom, and it turns out instead He wanted me to give up grumbling about night wakings.
I planned to read my Bible every morning over a cup of coffee. He taps me on the arm in the form of a needy 2-year-old and asks over and over again that I read Brown Bear, Brown Bear without snapping as my tepid infusion of caffeine cools on the counter between trips through the microwave.
I wanted to get back in shape by doing a specific postpartum exercise program every night before bed. Instead I’ve been working on not erupting into apocalyptic rage when bedtime stretches into the 9 o’clock hour because there are now more than twice as many needs as parents and why does everyone want to be touched at the precise time of day that I most want to run away screaming if one more person puts so much as a finger on my still inflated and decidedly-not-toned body?
The irony is not lost on me that my feeble attempts to prayerfully meditate on Jesus’ agony in the garden are interrupted by screams for cough drops, cuddles, an extra blanket, and a back rub when I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE FOR A MINUTE, GUYS.
I want to run away from my state in life in order to offer a sacrifice of my own design to the Lord.
But He just wants my actual heart. The best laid plans of mice and moms often go awry…
My Lent has been a disaster. At least it has from my point of view.
And it is tempting to project that failure over the remainder of Holy Week and assume that somebody is going to barf during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and that Easter will be “ruined” because the only kid who hasn’t yet caught the respiratory virus going through the house will wake up hacking at midnight on Good Friday.And that may well happen.
What I imagine God is wondering, though, is whether I will respond with my predictable temper tantrum over my perfect plans going awry by, um, life with actual human children, or whether I will cheerfully shoulder my little pile of splinters with a fiat more pathetic than anything the world has thus far known.
“I cannot do great things, but I can do small things without complaining about them” – #thingsStThereseneversaid
I hope that I can remember even 3 hours after hitting “publish” on this piece that what He really wants from me this Holy Week is my exhausted, frustrated, and fickle heart. That when I’m tempted to scream in frustration during dinner prep I can instead put my head down on the counter and pray a silent (or heck, VERY AUDIBLE) Hail Mary as I beg for the strength to love my children well, stir the mac and cheese, and to accept the actual crosses – small though they may be – that He has put in my path for this season.