If Lent leaves you feeling like a failure wrapped in the trappings of children, let God’s voice lead you toward your own domestic church.
If you’re like me, you tend to approach Lent with your metaphorical guns blazing.
You have grand plans. You have high expectations.
And then – reality bites.
I feel you, my friend. And I’ve been there, too. Because when my middle child was about six months old, I decided that attending daily mass would be part of our Lenten efforts.
I’m sure you can tell where this is going.
On the first day of our Lenten journey, I got the kids up, fed and ready to head out the door with plenty of time. As babies are wont to do, however, the little chose that moment to express her desire for a bath and outfit change. I looked at the clock. We had ten minutes before we needed to get in the car and still make it to mass on time.
Call out to the four-year-old – please get your shoes on! Nimbly remove soiled clothing from babe. Commence sponge bath with wipes. Listen for sounds of shoe deployment from the big girl. Hear nothing; call out once more – please get your shoes!
Discover baby mess is bigger than you anticipated. Baby discovers mess is bigger than anticipated. Baby also realizes the wipes are really darn cold. Baby begins screaming. Wailing. Commences gnashing of teeth (well, gums).
Sense a presence at the nursery door. Turn to find big girl in beginning stages of undress. Look at the clock. Stifle a scream. Mutter halfhearted words of comfort to babe; ask “What are you doing?!?” of big girl.
Realize you are becoming unhinged. Plead with big girl to get dressed. Continue to wrangle insulted babe. Manage to slide new diaper and clean outfit on, albeit crookedly. Pick up babe. See that four year old now has her arms tangled in her shirt but is flailing them around maniacally whilst wailing the song of her people.
Put babe down. Babe moves from insulted to unhinged. Free four year old from t-shirt’s mighty grasp.
Look at the clock. Scream.
“I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS! WE NEED TO GET TO MASS!”
Four-year-old looks you right in the eyes. “Can I have ice cream?”
Cry. Pick up babe and collapse into rocking chair. Nurse babe, as it is the quickest way to calm her. Tell four year old to pick out a book, as it is the quickest way to avoid more disrobing. Listen to the sound of blood rushing through your ears. Realize the music of your stress is like standing next to a jet engine.
And then, silence. The babe is nursing; the four-year-old is on her favorite errand.
“This is your domestic church,” He says. “Your children need you. I am with you here.”
He is right, of course.
In this season of your life, it doesn’t matter if you make it to mass on that particular morning. You can try again the next day, enacting in that moment your own version of the Paschal sacrifice – right there in your little home.
You are surrendering your body, yourself to the little people who need you.
Through your motherhood, you say to them, “This is my body, given up for you.”
To be clear, I don’t mean to make any of us martyrs for our children. But the truth is that as a mother, you will find yourself lost in the minutiae of everyday life. Whether you work at home or at the office, whether you homeschool or carpool, whether we cook dinner or order in, you are the center point of our family’s life. Your mind is cluttered with to-do lists, battered by worries, and focused on “enjoying every moment because it just goes by so fast” (though on your toughest days, it never seems to move quickly enough).
Your grand plans for Lent may never go the way you like.
You begin to feel like a failure.
You admonish yourself for being lukewarm in your efforts. And at the halfway point of the season, you are ready to give up.
What good does any of that do when the purpose of Lent is to bring you closer to the heart of God?
Opportunities for prayer and penance are all around you, my friend, in the toys you pick up, the scraped knees you bandage, the grind of the day to day. For me, I have learned that when I let go of grandiose plans (which are more often than not born out of selfish desires than a desire for an increase in holiness), when I allow God to choose my Lenten journey for me, He brings me closer to Him in ways I would never have imagined.
Sister, let this be your rule of Lent this season.
Be present, be still, be holy.
Be loved, and love those children in return.
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