Our Lenten Struggle in a Time of Pandemic

A personal reflection 

Well I had been working on plenty of other blog posts for this month. A few months ago we had some deaths of those close to us- some expected and some less so. It had me thinking and pondering a lot on speaking of death with our children. And that post is still pending for the future, but things just got very real very quickly and it doesn’t seem quite right right now.

As a doctor I’ve been abreast of this for quite a few weeks more than non-medical folks. My reaction was extremely humbling. Did I demonstrate my faith in our All merciful, All powerful and loving God? No. I wallowed in doubt and faintheartedness even as I spoke daily the words of St Ephraim’s Lenten prayer. I had high high hopes for this Great and Holy Lent. I had plans to read with my kids daily, create Lenten crafts for daily meditations and regularly make our church’s Wednesday night presanctified liturgy. Instead I found myself wallowing in fear and hunkering down at home and struggling to fall and stay asleep. Lord Forgive me – I believe, help my unbelief!

I’ve been reading the Psalter regularly since last year when I found my way to Sylvia Leontaritis’ (of OrthodoxMom.com) Psalter Groups and formed one in my own parish. The poetic words of the psalter are such a soothing balm for my soul. Reading them in these days I feel quite sure that this whole situation has something spiritual for us to learn and reflect upon. Especially as it coincides so precisely with Great Lent – and, sadly, looks set to try and eclipse Pascha if we would let it.

At first I was quite sure this was straight from the devil – trying to distract us from the important struggle at hand and keep us looking at one another as if a potential threat and enemy. But I also see how this has the potential to be an important tool for us in our spiritual struggle, if we can come together – even as we are standing 6 feet apart – in love and a shared vision. Many writers on Ancient Faith have been writing about the way that this pandemic can be viewed spiritually. I haven’t read them all but enjoyed Abbot Tryphon’s Dark Times and Elissa Bjeletich’s Our Global Great Lent. I’d love to hear your favorites. 

So here we are. We find ourselves home with our children. While home with my children is, honestly, my happy place, the stress and unrest are definitely getting to me and I find my temper quicker to flare, my patience severely lacking. This too is humbling. When my daughter made a groan as I invited her to the prayer corner for morning prayers instead of holding her with patience and love – I too struggle to discipline myself for regular prayer and I’m not 3 years old – I sent her to her room. I never do that. And not long after I slammed a metal bowl down on the floor after trying to get my oldest to stop pulling his arms inside his shirt and just stand quietly with me for the prayers.

This is not nurturing love. This is not living by example. This is slipping and we all do it – and we need to forgive each other and ourselves. But we also need to repent and redirect ourselves. We need metanoia. So that is what I am planning to do and I hope you’ll join me. I’d love your help too. 

Using this Time

So how can we use this time – this gift wrapped in a very unusual wrapping paper – for our family’s salvation? What will allow us to invite Christ into our homes and our hearts as a family – as the soothing balm that we all need so desperately right now? How can we work to nurture our faith and trust in God in the midst of so much uncertainty? Perhaps for you it comes easily. For me, I plan to start where I’m at and take it one day at a time with the promise to make God the centerpiece of our days. We can fill our lives with prayer – for our children, for ourselves and for our very broken world. And then can we invite our children into this space we have created and just make it part of our lives. We do crafts. We sing songs. We connect to our liturgical lives as best we are able. In our home we’ve been doing a lot of “church.” For our family, being connected digitally to church actually means that we “do” church all the time. My two oldest share a room and now ask for “church” at bedtime – and I play the most recent service (we’ve been watching the services of St. John the Baptist in D.C. since our church is still getting  our system set up).

An Offer

So starting tomorrow I will be planning to post a few times a week (as many as I’m able while I’m able) ideas for a daily dose of “God time” with your children. Just dedicated time to do something to bring us as a family into connection with God – not that there should ever be “non-God time” in our families. I am getting my ideas from everywhere and I am sure you have many of your own so PLEASE share. I will be sharing just a little blip of what we did and how it went. I know the first time I did this with my kids last week I felt a huge wave of relief running over me and I knew that God was with us and guiding us and loving us. 

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. – Matthew 18:20

It was so needed for me – and if I had planned something for today – who knows if I could have kept my temper cooled and remembered to “see my own sins and not judge my brother” or my children’s in this case. 

If this pandemic is teaching us anything it surely is how incredibly interconnected we all are – and truly how much we rely on one another. I hope perhaps you’ll join me and share with me as we work together to try to keep our minds and hearts on God even as we feel sometimes that the ground we are standing on is shifting beneath our feet. 

With much much love in Christ, Sasha

About Sasha Rose Oxnard

Sasha Rose is an Orthodox Christian and a mom. She also happens to be a family doctor, a wife, friend, daughter, amateur gardener, lover of music, dance, art, animals, nature and all things playful. Now adding blogger and writer to the list. She currently lives, works and prays in New England with her husband, four small children, dog, 2 cats and 5 chickens.

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