(And Other Messes)
You know how you have productive Lents and not-so-productive Lents? Or, as I like to call them, “good Lents” and “bad Lents”?
Despite my best efforts to the contrary, this is shaping up to be a “good Lent”; it sure doesn’t feel good- so it must be productive. I suspect that God took one look at my heart on Ash Wednesday, full of meager and half-hearted plans, and decided that He had better things in store for my soul, in the form of trials, temptations, and persecutions. Oh goody. Yes, He’s also given me the spiritual gift basket of graces to accompany the former, but still- trials, temptations, and persecutions are hard (insert whiney voice here).
I was like to die today when I opened the missalette and realized it’s only the second Sunday of Lent. I had been certain Father was going to process to the altar, all resplendent in rose vestments and thank you, Sweet Baby Jesus, there would only be one more week left. But oh no. No, I still have three more Sundays to endure before the light at the end of the tunnel is spotted.
I’m not going to make it.
Observe: the kids took it upon themselves this past week to dial up their behavior from “standard” to “advanced”. I won’t go into the sordid details, but the highlights have included matches, a window befouled by bodily wastes, and various cosmetics applied to people and objects best left unpainted.
For my part, did I rummage through that gift basket of graces God gave me even before he sent the trials? Did I trust in His strength, gentleness, and patience and model those things for my children?
I did not.
Instead, I relied on myself, which resulted in a Situation Handled Poorly. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat all week long
I was such a mess this morning that when Ken suggested we go to separate Masses, rather than dragging the entire asylum with us, I agreed. Usually, splitting up the family for Mass is not something I do, but I was fried. Having to wrestle with the kids for another round of the Liturgical Rodeo was an endeavor I was just not up to.
So I went to Mass by myself. And I got there early, which means I had a good twenty minutes to spend in front of the Tabernacle, begging God to forgive me for being such a screwup. A screwup as a mother, a screwup as a wife, a screwup as a disciple, and a screwup in any other area I couldn’t think of at that particular moment, but I wanted to make sure I could reserve the right to accuse myself further as needed.
I didn’t feel better, certainly, as Mass started, but I felt calmer. I knew that somehow, Jesus managed to make it through my entire litany of self-loathing, and he’d listened attentively to the whole thing.
Then, through the readings today, He answered me.
He answered me through the story of Abraham and Issac, because I don’t believe for an instant that Abraham wasn’t filled with horror and self-loathing as he hiked up that mountain. I don’t believe that he wasn’t accusing himself of being the worst father in the entire world while he looked at his only son on that altar. I’m pretty sure at some point he was wondering exactly why he was following a God that led him into situations like this one.
And despite all this, or maybe because of it, I don’t know, God took care of things, and blessed Abraham abundantly.
It was a bad week, but at no time did I have my children on an altar of sacrifice, so I took comfort in knowing that if Abraham made it through, I had a chance, too.
But Jesus wasn’t done there. The Gospel reading today was the Transfiguration, and while I listened to it being read, I understood something: Peter, James and John witnessed Christ’s transfiguration as in immediate, dramatic event. This is fitting, because Christ is God. And while the end result- a transformation from something merely human into something glorious and heavenly- is one we can all strive for, we’re not God, and the change is not going to take place in the same manner. I have a particular affection for St. Peter, so I looked to him to help me understand better. As usual, he didn’t disappoint. Peter’s joy at being witness to such a sight was accompanied with terror of the same thing. It was astounding and terrible at the same time. Change always is.
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