As Easter is almost upon us, I did a bit of reflecting to see how Lent had been going thus far.
At the start of Lent, I had asked for guidance from the Holy Spirit as to what I should focus on. In years past it involved giving things up. As a kid it was often sweets. As an adult, I would give up TV, dessert and last year was really tough, tea! No tea for 40 whole days. It was so difficult. But I did it. And I felt such a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. This year I am in a different place in my spiritual journey. Pondering in front of the Blessed Sacrament, it became clear what I was being asked to do. I was being asked to refrain from criticizing, or pointing out how people were doing things wrong. It is such an Achilles heel and something I have struggled with my whole life. It’s a bit of a family trait on the Dutch side – everything’s black and white and our way is always best. Didn’t you know that? Of course, you didn’t; and I’ll tell you where you went wrong! Of course, it’s for your own good.
While praying the Divine Office one day I came across the quote below and printed it and posted it up on my fridge as a daily reminder:
“Set, O Lord, a guard over my mouth;
Keep watch at the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3)
It’s been a tough slog. I’ve fallen more times than I care to count. It has been a real struggle and as I look back on this Lenten journey, I ask myself if I’ve accomplished anything at all this Lent. And that’s where it hit me, and I think perhaps the point that God wanted me to understand. Lent has nothing at all to do with my own sense of accomplishment. It has everything to do with where God wants to lead me; out of my comfort zone, showing me my frailties and weaknesses and above all, making me realize that I can accomplish nothing without His grace. I am very slowly learning what Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection states:
“A soul is all the more dependent on grace as it aspires to higher perfection, and the help and assistance of God are all the more necessary to us every moment because without Him the soul can do nothing. The world, the flesh, and the devil all combine to make such a strong and continual war against the soul that without the very present help of God and our humble and necessary dependence upon Him, they would carry it away in spite of itself. To our nature this seems harsh, but grace takes pleasure in being dependent upon God and finds its rest in Him.” (p. 94 The Practice of the Presence of God)
I still fall on a daily basis, but the difference now is I’m trying not to beat myself up about it anymore. I just pick myself up, brush myself off, ask for God’s forgiveness (and the family member who I irritated or hurt or made angry) and am learning slowly but surely to ask for God’s help to do better the next day. It doesn’t come easy for Ms. Independent. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Maybe one day, with God’s grace, I’ll be able to change my name to Ms. Dependent.
“If I noticed errors, I asked His forgiveness for them, and without becoming discouraged, I resolved to change and began anew to remain with God as if I had never strayed.” (p. 12 The Practice of the Presence of God)
How did your Lent go this year?