On Facebook the other day one of my wise sisters opined, “Sometimes you choose your Lent; sometimes your Lent chooses you.”
I have to agree.
I’ve been down with a little stomach bug. No big deal. Nothing to fuss about. Except that it is really inconvenient and annoying right when I want to go all Lent-y and, you know, DO stuff.
Like prayers and personal devotions and extra family prayers and some spiritual reading and a bit of sacrifice here and there. You know--nothing extraordinary. For Lent, that is.
But the prayers and personal devotions and extra family prayers have been--well--sporadic (at least on my part). And the spiritual reading has been nonexistent (because, alas, Agatha Christie mysteries aren’t spiritual reading, not even in a “memento mori” sense, but they are easy to read when your concentration level is iffy). About the only thing I’m rocking is the “giving up good stuff to eat” part, because I can’t eat much anyway till this thing is done with me. And I’m not even doing all that well with that, because when the low-blood-sugar migraines hit I’m more inclined to complain and gripe and get cranky than remember to, you know, offer it up.
There were so many things I was going to get done this Lent. There were so many good intentions about better schedules and more focused vocational living (translation: better housekeeping) and a renewed concentration on book editing and just doing a better job at everything imaginable. I was going to kick selfishness to the curb and lob laziness after it. Instead, I’m taking catch-up naps in the middle of the afternoon because my sleep schedule is all weird again (more from the migraines and the caffeine they require for minimal functioning ability than the bug itself) and barely keeping up with the laundry.
Now, I firmly believe that God does have a sense of humor, and that the old proverb about making the Almighty laugh by telling Him your plans is quite true. But I also think (as my sister put it) that sometimes He chooses our Lent for us, and if we cling too tightly to our own plans and goals and schedules and sacrifices we may miss the lesson He’s really trying to teach us.
For instance, I don’t often think of myself as an impatient person, but there’s nothing like a bout of illness to show me just how impatient I can be. Things like selfishness and laziness are more obvious to me, but the notion that I can get just run-down enough to be fretting and fussing and griping at people is one I don’t often consider. Yet it is true; I have not exactly been a model of patience. I want this thing to be gone, yesterday, before I lose any more time for Lent and spring-cleaning and getting done with all the things on my list.
The apostles were probably impatient too. Here was Jesus, the Messiah, the long-promised one! Here He was, teaching, preaching, healing the sick, making bread and fish out of thin air--and the crowds were ready to carry Him off and crown Him after that one. So what was He waiting for? Why all of this talk about sin and repentance? Why did He tell people to pay taxes and carry soldiers’ packs an extra mile for them, instead of telling the people to commit to an uprising that would kick the Romans out once and for all?
Why did He delay? Why did He turn so many in the crowd away from Him by saying weird stuff about giving them His flesh to eat? What was it all about?
Then He entered Jerusalem in triumph. The crowds loved Him. Some of the apostles had to be thinking about the future--well, we know they were, as witness the argument about which of them would be the mightiest, which would sit at His right and left hands. Peter, James and John had even witnessed His transfiguration, and seen their Lord with Moses and Elijah. This was it: He was going to be proclaimed their long-awaited King.
And He was. In mocking letters carved above the instrument of a torturous and ugly death. His death. His cross. And the only crown woven of blood-stained thorns.
How cruel the apostles must have felt this to be. Was this the end of all their waiting? Was this what they had waited, not always patiently--far from it--for?
We know the answer to that question. We know that “wait and hope” are not mere words, not a soothing platitude to get us through the tough times in life, or even the merely annoying and inconvenient ones.
When your Lent chooses you, the best thing you can do is ponder it, and then embrace it as best you can.