The Mechanism of Lent

28 February 2007

The mechanism of Lent is a startling one.  As my recent commentors have noted, I need a spiritual director, so these observations may be off kilter.

During this time of Lent, when I fast, pray more, and try to focus on becoming the person God created me to be, it becomes clear —startlingly clear— in what ways I fall short.  Impatience.  Lack of humility.  Lack of mercy or generosity.

The Little Guy gets up a little early, upsetting my morning routine.  I become impatient because instead of praying quietly, I pray while he sits and watches Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Is it his fault he’s gotten up early?  No.  He doesn’t know any better; he’s two.

The cat meows as I try to pray Terce, rubbing up against my hand and swatting at me for attention.  I want to swat her in the head and send her running, striking back at her for the way she’s annoyed me.  Does the cat know any better?  No.  She’s a cat.

Although I didn’t treat my son or my cat badly, inside I knew how I felt: frustrated, impatient, angry that my routine was upset by others who either needed me, couldn’t know any better, or both.

While I don’t feel that bad about these feelings —feelings I couldn’t help— I realize that these ways of being are not the way God created me to be.  Something is wrong.  I can help, but God will do most of the work.

I need to let myself off the hook, too: I am not perfect, and I am not going to become perfect any time soon.  I am doing the best I can, which is, most of the time, what God asks of us; “Do what you can, the best you can,” I hear God saying.  “I will do the rest.”

I need to remind myself this does not mean breaking myself.  This does not mean contorting myself upon a idolatrous, self-made cross, becoming my own Christ, my own source of redemption.  Which I am not.  Which I cannot be.  I am but a humble, imperfect, essentially good creature that can make frequent, sometimes serious mistakes.

Still, as Tripp mentioned today, we creatures are all essentially good.  I will do my best today, try my best to be who I was meant to be.  If I cannot get there, and I almost certainly won’t, then I will ask God’s forgiveness, I will ask others’ forgiveness, and I will forgive myself.

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