Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lent for the Non-Catholic


We're a week into Lent, something I've never observed before. I grew up attending Protestant Christian churches, none of which ever discussed or observed Lent. I always thought it was just a time when people stopped eating candy or junk food or stopped swearing for a while. I never got what that was supposed to do with a person's salvation or spiritual growth.

As an adult I've learned a lot more about the meaning behind Lent, and it makes a lot more sense to me now, though as a non-Catholic it still sort of feels like something that's not meant for me to participate in. However, during some recent routine internet browsing I came across a post on one of my favorite blogs, Mama Needs Coffee, whose writer happens to be Catholic. The post was about Lent. As I read, not only did her description of mom-life and all the joys and challenges totally resonate with me, but so did her perspective of Lent. Unlike what I've always heard before, where the individual selects a personal sacrifice, she described a different approach-

"Last week when I get to thinking about what I’m going to give up this year, I was kind of at a loss. I figured it would be alcohol or sugar, or that I’d make a commitment to getting up at a specific ungodly hour (my own personal hell). But nothing was sticking as “yes, this is it, this should be your focus this year.” I realized that Lent, for me, is always about self improvement, self denial, self mastery, self, self self.
Oddly enough, (and by that I mean not at all), I think focusing overly on my sacrifice of choice has really hamstrung most of my lenten practices in the past. Because it becomes just another endurance event where I pit my will against the calendar and grit my teeth and git er done.
.....Back in January I chose a “theme” for 2016, or maybe it was chosen for me: Acceptance with joy.
I think that can be adapted to Lent.
In fact, I think it’s specifically intended to be, at least for me.
Kids up all night and you feel dead? Acceptance with joy.
House trashed after hours of hardcore parenting and work and life and it’s 9:48 pm and you’re staring down a pile of dishes in the sink? Acceptance with joy.
Somebody summons you to their bedchambers in the dark of night with the horrifying sound of retching? Acceptance with joy.
Can’t add half and half to your coffee because the baby will make you repent of it with every fiber of your being if you ingest a microscopic particle of dairy? Acceptance with joy."
 I thought this was so on point. It hit home for me as something I'm always trying to work on. Rather than choosing to sacrifice some indulgence for 40 days, I can definitely get on board with the practice of accepting what God puts in front of me each day with joy- good, bad, and ugly. Perhaps I could give it a try for this lenten season? Just like most stay-at-home moms, I cherish being home with my children. It's an opportunity I never dreamed I'd have, but even my underlying awe at being able to spend every single day with them can sometimes get trampled by the challenges of managing a household with three small children. The utter lack of personal time to eat a meal or use the bathroom or take a deep breath can be overwhelming. At times it's difficult not to let that frustration spill out onto the children and into our day. I know that I'm doing God's work, the work He has called me to do, in raising and educating these little souls. But as with any work, there are difficult times, frustrations, long days, headaches, and greener grass somewhere. Amidst all of those things, I want to make sure I'm doing His work with a joyful attitude. Making a conscious commitment for these 40 days seems like a great way to kick start a healthy long-term habit. That is spiritual growth, and that I can buy into, Catholic or not.
So here we are, one week in and I've already gotten to spend Valetine's Day weekend with 3 out of 5 of us vomiting. First Big Sister, then myself, then Josh. It was undeniably depressing, but keeping "acceptance with joy" in mind, I stopped and thanked God for giving me little ones to nurse back to health, and that a little stomach bug is the biggest health issue we currently face. I wasn't whistling with joy while I Cloroxed every surface in the house, but I wasn't grumbling either. I accepted that this was a challenge God gave us and we worked through it with the best attitudes we could muster given the condition we were in. And I acknowledged that this challenge, in the grand scheme of life, was an infinitesimal one, a good starting point for my new practice of "acceptance with joy"  :) 

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