Lent is a Time for Consolation...

Some Lents are just so perfectly... Lenten. I mean that events and moods seem to lend themselves so well to a real grinding long-suffering and a feeling of profound empathy with Job. Of course, most of us don't really come close to having the trials of Job. I certainly don't. I just whine like I do. But the trials do seem to have a way of piling on... and there is sometimes a leaden heaviness that is difficult to shake. I was already feeling a bit overwhelmed before the city inspector showed up to tell us to move several cords of wood and speed up a pricey yard project... which interferes (yet again) with our plan to purchase a safe vehicle that accommodates our entire family. The same day, I left a disaster of a kitchen and piles of laundry to drive a child to practice and found myself (plus 5 children) stranded for 3 hours in a parking lot with smoking, stinking brakes. The next day, the car is in the shop (the second vehicle to make such a trip in a week), the toilet overflows and a light fixture crashes to the floor. How very Lenten, I thought.

It is at times like this when I realize how incredibly immature I am and how little trust I have. I am the 4-year old who tags along with mom to shop for panty hose. If you are a parent, you have seen the contortions of misery on the young, suffering face that absolutely cannot stand one more second in the hosiery aisle. It starts with moans and a drooping countenance and escalates quickly; the head starts to sway side to side and the moans take on a slightly higher and more intense pitch; the little body begins to hang on mother and the shelving and eventually finds it's way to the floor. Mother has spent a total of 3 minutes and 26 seconds looking for new nylons (since the 4-year old ripped the last pair with the heel of her princess shoes) and truly, the child looks as though the end is near.

This is who I am during Lent... a child flailing and kicking to get out.

How quickly I forget the true path of a Christian which is none other than the path of Christ; the Way of the Cross. The very first indication that I am not thinking with the mind of Christ or loving with His heart is that I am so quick to throw off the sacrificial way that brings me so close to Him. This season is not about waiting for conflict and pain to afflict us at every turn, but about lighting the fire again. Renewing the zeal that draws us to Christ. Falling in love again... more deeply than ever before.

This past Sunday, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Father spoke about consolations. I listened with rapt attention since I have been so eager for such sweet relief. I wish I could have memorized the entirety. As it is, I was able to remember a little of what he said and I have been treasuring it  in my heart ever since, clinging to the reminder that I must trust that the Lord will always provide what we need, when we need it.

What Father said (in a nutshell, in my words. My apologies to Father.)...

We must not seek out consolations but seek only the path of Christ. When consolations do come, they come as a gift from Jesus Himself and not one second too early or too late. His timing is always perfect. Embrace the road of sacrificial love and trust that God will sustain us. 

Not a moment too soon, not a moment too late. Here I am, fighting and kicking like the child who wants out. And in the meantime, what am I missing? What joy am I overlooking? What gift am I throwing away? What work of soul am I neglecting? When consolations are absent, I must throw myself on grace and come face to face with the question of the purity of my intentions. It is at those times when I learn to really see the face of Christ. It is at those times when I learn the difference between emotional comfort and lasting joy.

As the children and I sat stranded in our broken vehicle, we ate fish crackers and waited (more or less patiently) to be rescued from our isolation. Sometimes, a mom has to be on the outside what she isn't on the inside for the sake of her kids. Alright group, everybody tell at least one thing to be thankful for about today's adventure.

~I'm grateful for my secret. (Crash had some money with him and had purchased a pretty Easter gift for a sister at the garden center attached to the lot.)
~That we get to eat lots of fish crackers and that it isn't snowing.
~I'm thankful that the car broke here and not further along where there aren't good places to stop.
~That we have a Daddy who is coming to get us soon!

We had been stuck in a traffic jam earlier in our drive. In the center lane of the congested, eight-lane road in the middle of rush hour,  a woman sat alone in her stalled vehicle. She tried to start that car six times while we waited there and I could see her lips forming the words, "Please start. Please." I knew there was nothing that I could do to help in the situation and started to pray for her as we pulled away. Please, Jesus, help that woman start her car. Please keep her safe. Sixty seconds later, I started to smell the stink of brake friction. Two minutes later, I suspected it was my car. Three minutes later, I saw the smoke and was looking for a place to pull over. Maybe someone was praying for us, too.

As I stood outside of my vehicle full of kids I could hear the baby crying inside. I started to laugh a little and talk to myself. Don't ask for consolations, little girl... just give thanks and put one foot in front of the other. I tried again to get to our destination but those brakes brought us to another empty lot. Three hours later, the kids cheered and jumped up and down as the Chief pulled into the lot to rescue us.

~Thank you, Lord, for cell phones.
~Thank you for empty parking lots.
~Thanks for good kids.
~Thank you for keeping us safe.
~Thanks you, Jesus, for continuing to pursue me.

Father's words begin to ring true... Lent is not only a time of trial but also of consolation.

(I'm counting the graces, Jenny... sometimes they just don't get numbered)

Posted on March 23, 2011 and filed under "Lent", "spiritual life".