I’ll admit it–this year has not been my best Lent.
Sure, I’m pregnant, and hitting the very pregnant stage, and we’ve had two snowstorms trapping us in the house, so we’ve missed Stations twice and haven’t made it to Adoration at all. But for Lent I said I would make a point of spending half an hour in prayer every day, and last week I think the longest I made it was ten minutes.
See, we’re doing this study called Oremus in the CWOC group that I joined, which is all about deepening and enriching your prayer life, right? I came in on week three, so I had to do a bit of catch-up with the exercises, but the general idea is that every week has a set of readings and every day you do the lectio divina, and then once a week you gather with your group to watch a DVD talking about the next week’s focus and then discuss how the previous week has gone. It’s a pretty darn good study, and to me the most valuable aspect is that it a) sets forth a reading plan and b) provides accountability in the form of my fellow ladies. (More on that latter point in another post.)
And then we hit the most recent week, where Day 2 invites you to get up at sunrise and contemplating Genesis 1–not in a lectio divina sense, just in a communining with God in the beauty of his creation sense. Which would be great if a) I could motivate myself to get up at/before sunrise (hahahahahahahaha) (ah ha) (ha) (ha) or b) there had been a morning in the past week that wasn’t so cloudy as to obscure said sunrise. One day I tried to say screw it and just meditate on Genesis 1, but I was so tired I almost fell asleep as soon as I finished reading it, and anyway I feel guilty for not following ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS lest I somehow fail to get out of the program what I’m supposed to be getting out of it. And then our meeting for last week was canceled due to snow, and this week’s meeting was canceled due to Spring Break. So the two things that have been motivating me–the reading plan and the accountability–both fell apart.
And I let them.
My problem is not that I don’t talk to God. My problem is also not, as sometimes is suggested in the DVDs, feeling like there’s anything too small or petty or unimportant for me to tell God about it. My problem is not turning my face from the Lord when I’m angry (though I do tend to stick my fingers in my ears and go LALALA while ranting at him, at least until the initial anger has passed). My problem is not forgetting to say my bedtime prayers or not remembering God throughout the day. It’s not failing to go to Mass–though as anyone who sings in a church choir can tell you, the act of serving others and God through music is a different kind of prayer than the experience of sitting in the pew. I probably do get in at least half an hour of talking to God over the course of my day–but it’s not contemplative prayer.
My prayer life right now is more like texting God (and getting texts back!), instead of sitting down to call him and have a proper conversation. Texting God is great for staying in touch, for quick out-of-the-blue thoughts, but (as anyone who’s texted with me knows) it’s terrible for deep conversation. It doesn’t really count as spending time with him. For example, ff I only ever texted my husband, our relationship would suffer. We need cuddles and watching television together and making and sharing meals and going out and about and sharing new experiences together. We need that time at the end of the day where we just lie in bed and talk. (We have found inevitably that attempts to have those conversations before bed just never quite work out. It might just be an us thing, but it’s something we’ve had to commit to making time for in our evening rituals or else we end up staying awake past bedtime because we haven’t had a chance to talk in bed.) Without those things, we’re just two people sharing space. Sure, we could text each other to keep each other posted on what’s going on in that space, or some of the things going on in our heads, but we wouldn’t be really communicating.
So when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for Lent, I hit upon this call and desire to spend more time with God. Like sit down, put my feet up (the only way sitting down is comfortable anymore sigh), talk to the Lord, and then just rest and let Him talk back to me. I’ve been struggling with wanting to do more–with wanting to be out and about with God, as it were, with wanting to put myself out there with volunteering and being involved, but this whole pregnancy thing is partially about coming to terms with the shift in my priorities and where I’m being called to be. Especially now, when I can’t even make it through all of Mass (or, you know, any of Mass) without sitting down, and with knowing that in a few weeks my number one job will be to take care of the baby God is giving me (God willing and the creek don’t rise). I’m used to being active, but I’m being called to prepare myself for a different kind of self-giving, to prepare myself for the fact that I’ll have to help out differently from how I have in the past. So even if I can’t go volunteer at a soup kitchen or do any kind of physical helping out, I have to remember I’m still called to support people and ministries with my prayer, and that it’s okay to do that, it’s okay to let everything else take a backseat while I take care of myself and my baby and then figure out how to do that once baby’s no longer kicking me from the inside.
And what God wants me to do, I think, is to practice being with him and listening to him, since in a few months everything is going to be topsy-turvy and having the ability and practice and habit of falling into half an hour with him in the midst of everything else is going to be valuable beyond measure. And lectio divina is great because it provides a springboard for that prayer; even just the act of reading something three times, forcing myself to slow down enough to start to hear God speaking to me, has already borne much fruit.
And then I got thrown off my schedule, and my husband was home because of the snow and I felt weird (for no reason I should add–he’s supportive, if occasionally clueless) doing it with him around (which was probably meant to be practice for when doing it with baby, whoops). But even if the prayer study wasn’t working, I should have at least turned on my Rosary CD (another thing that’s sometimes easier to do in a group) and at least gotten in twenty minutes of prayer that way; and I know my husband wouldn’t want me to feel like I should not do my Lenten observance just because he’s around. But instead I just gave up.
But here’s the good news: that was last week.
Today is a new Sunday, a new week, a new chance to go to Mass, ask for forgiveness, receive Christ (Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, and all the attendant graces He offers), and start over. Today is a day to rest, to do this reflection and figure out what broke about last week, to set my guards and plan my attack for this week. To say “it’s okay if you don’t get up at sunrise, just do your darn reading, God just wants to hear your voice and have you listen in response to His” (to say, “I love you too,” since we love because he first loved us). To have a backup list of readings to choose from, since I’ve only got six days for the study this week and we’re not starting the next week until…next week. To go to sleep re-committing myself to this Lent, to this last time before baby comes, to this time of preparation and purification and sacrifice, to this time of self-awareness before I really learn the meaning of “sleep-deprived.”
This morning was sunny and beautiful and I sat outside in the sunny beautifulness and listened to the melting snow rushing through the gutters and watched my dog roll in the newly-unveiled grass and allowed myself a cautious bit of hope that maybe spring is on its way after all, and I thanked the Lord for granting me this encouragement in his creation (see? Genesis 1, totally meditated on) and reminding me to persevere. But he’s not just offering this for me; he wants all y’all to know that if Lent hasn’t gone how you wanted it to, there’s still plenty of time to pick yourself up and start anew.
After all, we’re only halfway there.
I’ll pray for the prayers you’re living on, and hope that you’ll pray for me too. We still have time to greet April with true penitence, so that when the time comes, we may fully appreciate becoming an Easter people, with that lovely A-word as our song.