Well here we are… Lent is upon us. And I welcome it…
At least I thought I did.
On Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, or Nate’s birthday (our 3rd child ;))… whichever you would like to call it, I gleefully raced to the Catholic Center at the mall where the kind and wonderful Franciscan monks offer round-the-clock confessions. It had been a while (not that I’m confessing to YOU, but you know, just so anyone who has waited ‘awhile’ can feel better!)… and so I couldn’t wait to take that ‘soul shower’…
I like to go regularly. But I got a little thrown off my horse last year. For one, I needed to go through a time of psychological healing, as I had lost my regular confessor and spiritual director through a series of unfortunate events. I also needed a certain amount of soul searching and I even needed to figure out where I had sinned since I had felt so much like a victim and was busy nursing my own wounds. But of course I sinned. A lot. I just needed to wade through the muck of other people’s sins, forgive them, and discover the plank in my own eye.
Whew… I had reached that point, where I was ready to repent. I felt rather good, as I was proud of how I handled a rather difficult situation last year that could have warranted a much more ‘justified’ and human reaction… I had even been rather patient with my kids (whoa.. an accomplishment for me!) and we have been experiencing much joy and peace in our marriage and new community of loving friends. So I planned a teensy weensy wimpy confession, a sort of ‘box checking’ to get Lent off to the right start.
(Insert belly laugh here. God knows my thoughts… why do I always forget that?)
And so, with chin in the air, with joy and glee, I gathered my huge pregnant tummy and my 20 month old, and with a trail of adorable children all holding hands, we walked with quick, joyful steps towards the mall.
Next thing I knew, I was on the ground, with my tummy and 20 month old’s face one centimeter from the cement pavement’s surface. I had fallen straight onto my knees.
Shocked, I got up quickly and breathed a prayer of thanks that somehow I hadn’t dropped my baby or slammed my unborn little one into the ground, or gone into labor, or broken my neck, or… even more importantly, that no one had seen this embarrasing event of a huge pregnant whale struggling to stand up with a toddler on her hips, and I resumed the journey into the building.
We went in, and I tried to act normal. But I was shaken. What was I going to say again? I was dazed… and soon, as I sat in the line, all I could think of was the burning in my knees. Upon further inspection, I was bleeding, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. I wanted to confess my sins and get the heck out of there.
When I finally did go in to the confessional, I was still dazed. And in my daze-ment, I no longer had the pride of a well-formed speech for the priest. What bubbled out was the embarrassing truth. And tears. And a disorganized spontaneous account of the past year from someone who sounded like they were making their first confession. I surprised myself. I discovered through my own bumbling words that I still needed to forgive.
And here I thought I was so darned good!
After my personal confession, and penance, and absolution, the priest offered counsel that was more generic, meaning I can’t help but share it with anyone I can. This is one of the perks of meeting with the monks, or any holy priest, is often times you receive much-needed direction that doesn’t necessarily even pertain to one’s personal sin, but is wise counsel for life.
I think this could resonate with almost all of us…
“Make no mistake, you have been abused. The pain and the anger and the sadness that well up within you is just and shows that you are healthy, and will indeed serve to protect you and your family in the future from similar harm. God has awakened you to the truth, and it is right that your spirit struggles with injustice. But, forgiveness is not an option. You MUST forgive. It is required. Reconciliation, however, IS an option since it takes both parties to reconcile. If anyone does not accept your pleas to reconcile with them, then drop this out of your heart and pray for them. They may never reconcile in your lifetime. God may wake them up as he has awakened you, but you must move on. Of course, welcome them if they desire reconciliation and they initiate it… but until then? Pray for them to grow as God wishes them to grow, each day for a finite time, and move on in joy. You are free!”
Could there have been better words to start Lent? For all of us?
Yes, I had been brought down to my knees, even painfully, so that my own pride could be stripped away and I could approach God without trying to gloss over what He already knows anyway. And, Loving Father that He is, He rewarded me in His kindness…
Leaving with my painful bloody knees, and chuckling at myself and my weakness because of my crazy body shape and needy soul, I felt truly truly FREE. And this type of freedom could not be fabricated in a doctor’s office or any type of rearranging thoughts in my brain. It was given to me, by Jesus Himself.
Funny thing, I think He was chuckling too… afterall, while He let me get some bruises on my knees, He made sure my sweet babies were just fine, and He knew I would trade a couple of bruises for freedom and joy beyond comprehension.
Have a blessed Lent!