I have many dear girlfriends who say to me often during time of this Lenten season, “I really really want to go to daily Mass/pray a rosary/prayer longer/pray at all/make sandwiches for the poor” but then after the second week, “Life Happens/I get sick/my life is still so busy”. Or, take me, for example who was pregnant every year and a half for the last ten years—Lent was a nightmare for me then! I just never felt like I could succeed, or give enough, or keep it up. I’m no expert, but as a woman of God and a writer, I realize time and time again, that I can only write what I know. So, let me say this clearly and dearly: Sistas; God isn’t measuring your “enough” by how many cool holy things you’re doing for Lent. Or your “success” rate for that matter. Can you imagine how loco that’d be to believe in a God that walked along the river of eternity say, with a clipboard and a pencil behind his ear pointing at you, “That one—she’s been good. She’s been nice! It’s checked twice!” and then seeing me in all my pregnant years and shaking His divine head sadly and saying, “Well that goal only lasted for a day! So much for fasting. She gets the red pen!”
Yes, we are called to be perfect, as He is perfect, and of course we must try and try though we fail. But the glorious thing about that is, to each of our souls, that means something different! (I mean of course, there are many black and white things such as sin and immorality, but for one woman who is more practiced at fasting for long periods of time, expertly and joyfully avoiding eating most of the day, the pregnant woman offering up most of her meal to her hungry child with great struggles to do so, is just as holy.) So you're right, ladies—if you’re already going through life’s trials and it’s not been fruitful to add walking on your knees all the way to church, crying while praying a rosary, it’s not. So stahhhp beating yourself up. Stop. It. God doesn’t expect you to add things that just seem holy, He desires that you just gal darn come to Him. Figure out the rest after that. He’ll lead you to it, I promise. It might not be the glamorous Pintrest-esque thing you’d hoped for but He’ll show you. Typically, if it’s truly sanctification you desire because you sincerely desire to grow closer to Jesus, it’s sanctification you’ll get. We’re messy, we’re stretched to our limits (and sometimes past); we’re failing as we go along before we’re doing good as well. Doing what we’re called to do is more likened to getting sloppy-sweaty during working out.
I don’t know about you all, but I’m not a ballerina when I work out. Not at all glowy and graceful. I’m that gross girl that you’re like, “Omigah…Did she just dump water on her head or…is that sweat? Why is she breathing so hard? She hasn’t even made it to the stair stepper yet!” And just like that, there is humility, sanctification, and courage all rolled into one. Often times, doing a particular exercise that is newer or one that I have’t done in a while (or like, never in my life) feels wrong or like I’m doing it incorrectly. I just have to trust that if I see my form and all is as I was trained, eventually, it'll become a habit that my body remembers. Just like doing God’s will.
Let me ask a question: what if…Lenten goals weren’t just for forty days and were actual stepping stones for our LIVES?? What if, at the end of Lent we didn’t say, “Well; that soda-free life or extra mass thing was fantastic, but life as usual is life as usual”? If we are adding intense regimens to our spiritual lives, it should be for the long haul of being more spiritually hard-core forever—not just for a season. Otherwise, we run the risk of repeating those New Year’s type resolutions, where, everyone knows you add something crazy just temporarily or at least, that’s usually what happens. Adding more spiritual things if you know God is calling you to it, is good of course! But…realize that God doesn’t just “call us” during Lent, or Advent for that matter—He’s just flipping waiting for us to listen, and it’s usually not until those times in the Church or seasons that we do! This is not to say that these aren’t holy times that even feel more blessed and trying or hopeful—that’s all very real. But the truth is, God isn't any more “real” in different seasons. He is, was, and always will be all year ‘round, every moment of His immeasurable existence. That should cook your noodle right crispy. Lent is necessary AND it’s for our spiritual journeys, not just a New Year’s resolution to serve us in our small-set goals. Like confession, it’s one little part of the whole, step to healing and conquering ourselves.
So what am I saying? Well first, I”ll clarify what I’m not saying: I’m not saying be complacent, lazy, ignorant of the season or disregard it or to give up on things you feel in your heart you should—do what God says for goodness’ sakes. I’m imploring you though, Mamas and Ladies Of The Land: expand your hearts, deepen your senses of hearing, seeing, and helping God in others and in all situations this Lent and it will carry into the rest of your life. We’ll slip and struggle but that’s another reminder of what we always are, not just during Lent: imperfect without Him, but working on getting there, and loved as all get-out. I’m going to challenge us, not because I have any more of a right than any other woman of God, but because if we want to grow, we often need each other to do so. For this week, even in this part of Lent let’s start with prayer:
Prayer: I know you Mamas, so deeply desiring to pray for the “right” amount of time—thirty minutes, a full hour of adoration. You read this in all the meditation prayer books and hear it at Mass announcements, and think to yourselves, “Crap—I’d take thirty minutes just for ME if I could! How the heck can I do this?!”
And, there are so many of you that so amazingly have Littles, and manage it—love and genuine kudos to you! The rest of us though, maybe imagine ourselves somewhere in attempts to be all Zen with little birds chirping in the background, and laugh heartily or maniacally, because we’re more likely to have toddlers who are melting down in the adoration chapel, spouses who are melting down at home while we’re gone, or we’re melting down screaming, “Mommy has to pray and MEDITATE! SHHHH!!!” I get it.
Maybe for now, the minutes don’t matter as much as knowing this: why are we here in this prayer moment? Who cares if it’s TWO minutes in the bathroom or the closet?! Or when you stop your car in front of the grocery store and brace yourself. God only cares that you're reaching out to Him. “God, here I am…I know that you see me and that you hear me.” You are precious, Little Lady, and He is there with you in those precious minutes you’re giving to Him. This is what you do—be a gift to Him. In whatever amount of time you have. In your anger, your exhaustion, your peace—whatever state you’re in. Just sit there and keep loving Him. I have no doubt that as mothers, sisters, spouses, friends, you have times where you have to exert heroic physical and emotional effort to love the person in front of you. Know why? Because love is a choice. We don’t choose attraction even to our friends necessarily, but we absolutely choose whom we love—not the feelings part, the part where love is a verb. The parts where your husband is cutting his nasty toenails on your clean bathroom floor that took you months to clean (becausekids) and then later, he throws away your freshly pumped breastmilk, the Nectar of the World, the stuff of life—because he thought it was “old skim milk.” You take these things and just look at him and…choose to love him because it’s the right thing to do. That’s a choice. (If you’ve breastfed, you’ll gasp and recall and agree with me, that that’s love to forgive such an act.) Or when you are ill as a dog who ate chocolate and you go and help your girl clean, all because she losin’ it—that is choosing to love. (That last example—three of my Colorado besties have done for me. And in one particular instance, one of my best gals came running because I just couldn’t get my crap together and the house was taking over like The Blob, and let me tell you—my house is always a MESS, so this was bad. And she was sick. So sick but she didn’t tell me because she desired to choose love.)
I digress… But only a little. Being intentional and sharing a moment with God or Jesus, the Holy Spirit or all three in a few moments because you chose to, I assure you, is achieving a deeper prayer goal for Lent and always.
And remember, nothing is too great for God; especially our imperfect ways of giving ourselves to Him. Imagine your beautiful little girl or boy running in from outside, proudly handing you “The most perfect flower, Mama!” and it’s a dandelion. Would you crumple it before him or her and say, “This is trash; a weed. I don’t want it"?
Neither will God.
Go Forth, Amazing Ladies!