So it’s Lent. I’ve given up sugar and whine. Not a typo. Somehow using the ‘w’ word gives it that emphasis that the word, ‘complaining’ doesn’t. Can you hear it, the whining? It’s like when my kids were little and they’d twist up their faces begging for whatever they felt they deserved, “But why? They’d whine, or “Mama, she did this to me!, or it wasn’t me!” Or Paul as a two year old would demand, “No! Me no like it!” But yea, when Paul said that, it was cute. But I digress.
What I would do when the kids asked for something in a whiny voice, I’d say, “I can’t hear you. Use the right voice and start over.” I wish Jesus would help me out that way. I might snap to. Instead I hear nothing. Though, after a while, the silence is golden, and I get the message. My whining isn’t effective.
I’ve slipped a bit this week, and blame it on having company. I feel a bit of pressure to make dessert for my guests. I don’t have to eat it, but I’m not that strong. And I see Jesus in this. Why? Because I am pretty much a dead twig snapped off the big trunk relying on my own. Because if I were in the desert fasting for 40 days, I would feel that no one was watching, like what difference does it make if I just give in, just this once? Of course we know the story. No water, no bread, no meat. He succeeded, because he is king of the universe. And that is why he is my Lord, because he didn’t cave. Love never fails.
So far though, I have passed in drinking my coffee black since Ash Wednesday. For Christians who don’t observe Lent, it may seem silly to give up something you enjoy, especially in comparison to what Jesus did for us, the cross and all.
The way I see it is drinking my coffee black is a small thing for Jesus, (because honestly, what is that to him?) But for me to give it up and put Christ first, that is a big thing for me. And the real kicker is this: The little things count.
Zechariah 4:10: for even they who were scornful on that day of small beginnings shall rejoice to see the select stone in the hands of Zerubbabel.
Of course Jesus said it himself, recorded in Luke 16:10:
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.
Mother Theresa borrowed from Jesus, “Do little things with great love.”
St.Therese of Lisieux of the Child Jesus paid tribute to the little things and became known as Therese of the ‘Little Way.’
So for me, because God gives above and beyond what I ask, I figure that to give up something for a little while, I just might get something better, something soulfully beneficial. (You know, to give up one’s own life, it might be saved).
I took Shep, our dog for a walk. I prayed the Rosary and on a Tuesday, which meant the mysteries were of the Sorrowful events of Jesus’ Passion: The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning of Thorns, Carrying of the Cross, and last but not least, the Crucifixion of Christ.
In praying the Rosary, as in meditative form of reciting Hail Mary’s, we trust in the intercession of Mary, the mother of God, as we worship Jesus in these mysteries. In Jesus’highlights, one Bible event at a time, beginning with the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary, that she would conceive of the Holy Spirit. There are four sets: The Joyful, The Sorrowful, The Glorious, and The Luminous, which were instituted by the Great John Paul II.
The first Sorrowful mystery is the Agony in the Garden. Shep runs off in the meadow, and I stoop to tie my shoelace. I am about to break into a jog and I start reciting the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”
Then I pray the Lord’s Prayer to start the first mystery. I intend my will towards Jesus, and I whisper, “Lord, I worship you in the mystery of the Agony in the Garden.” How did he do it? All alone, and he had the choice to not go through with it, “If it be thy will, Father, let this cup pass…”
Then out of nowhere, and I mean, nowhere, I get this thought: “Jesus, teach me to suffer.”
What a scary prayer. I assure you, it didn’t come from me.
Which makes me think it is legit, from the Holy Spirit.
Again, the quiet is sometimes the loudest.
1 Kings 19:12: The Lord spoke to Elijah, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
By now, I’ve stopped running. The thought of suffering takes a bit of focus, so I walk. Is that like praying for patience? “Lord, I need patience, and I need it NOW!”
If I ask for God to teach me to suffer, will he give me something I can’t handle? But then I wander down that narrow road of thought, kicking gravel on a country road, where few travel. I realize that everyone suffers anyway. We suffer for bad reasons, our own sin and its consequences. We suffer for good reasons, to bring about change for the better in ourselves and on behalf of others. We suffer in the in between, for no apparent reason at all. Sometimes I wonder if this is the most purposeful type of suffering. We just may find out later.
"To live is to suffer. To survive, Is to find meaning in the suffering.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
There is a subtlety about Lent that I almost miss. Like the color purple, it is rich—deep, like water. It is solemn.
It isn’t fun.
Life is difficult.
I am aware of my sin, my shortcomings.
I think often, “What is the use? Where do I even start to become a better person?”
I can’t please everyone, not even the most important people in my life. They know me better than everyone else. Why is everything so hard? Why do we fuss and fight?
There is no way out. Like a burlap shirt, it itches.
Again, it’s the attention to details, one day at a time, one mood at a time.
Moment by moment…
Until the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday
I suffer and wait for the glory of the Risen Christ.
How about you? What are your little things? Are you spring cleaning your house, your soul?
What are your purple prayers?
They all count.