This past week the children and I commented that “suddenly” we find ourselves nearer the end of Lent than the beginning. All the one-day-at-a-times and one-prayer-at-a-times have strung together several weeks of “good struggle” and here we are, prepared or not, approaching Palm Sunday and another Pascha.
Whether this Lent has been deeply challenging or a mostly-missed season for you, we single parents have been juggling the gratitude-to-complaint continuum right along with you’all! From car breakdowns to illnesses, bills piling up and job changes, family and ex conflict struggles and new levels of forgiveness Lent never fails to challenge us deeply. Even when I’ve forgotten that Lent is “lenting” it seems I’m challenged to pray more. And I don’t even need to mention the new war or weather crisis and the ongoing political themes always on the news to remind us that there is wickedness and chaos increasing all around us.
When chaos increases, focus on what is real
This past Sunday the priest at our parish spoke on the gospels and on Saint Mary of Egypt but came down to this one clarion call by the end that has stuck with me. “Don’t let anyone steal your peace for our Peace is Christ himself.” (Paraphrasing Fr. Matthew Harrington) This reminded me of how elementary and un-dramatic and yet all-powerful the practice of our faith is every day, but especially during Lent.
The Peace which Passes all Understanding
The Peace available to us, living within us, is Christ himself—not some positive-thinking mantra or even perspective-shift, but the real, living, ever-present, risen Christ. And when lent challenges us with a zillion distractions and the temptation to complain about the struggle instead of rejoicing in it the quickest cure is also presented by our faith.
We are invited to partake of the living Peace, the eternal Peace, the real and literal Prince of Peace.
Every time I pick up my prayer rope, or remember that I’ve forgotten to pray or wonder how I’ll make it to an extra service this week or really whether I’ll get to any service at all—each of these is the call-back-to Christ I need at that moment, if I am willing to be redirected.
The only real cure for loneliness
The same holds true for ministering to each other. And the cure for our loneliness, depressions and deeper aches.
When I was struggling with daily, overwhelming, intense temptations to end my life what kept me going (literally) from one day to the next was a phone call with my counselor each night. I’d be swallowed by grief and panic and suffering but I’d committed to call her before I acted on my desire for the pain to just stop, please just make it stop!! On that call she’d ask how I was feeling and for a few moments I’d re-iterate how panicked and painful every moment seemed. Then she’d ask me “have you taken your meds today?” The answer would vary and she’d ask me to take my nightly medication. Then she’d ask. “Now, go to sleep and see if you feel the same in the morning. We will talk tomorrow.” For years that is what kept me going from one day to the next.
Today I know that I can get through the next 30 minutes or couple hours or 24 hours or just-one-more-sleep, as my toddlers used to call it, with the Peace of Christ alive and real and therapeutically healing me bit-by-bit especially when lent throws me into the deep end. When the car breaks down, and I get sick, and the check is short and my go-to friendships are strained and whatever else comes at me, I know where Peace Is. I am reminded that I can “cast aside all earthly cares” even if it’s just for a moment or two in the center of Liturgy and then I can return to that deepest, truest Reality at any time during the rest of my one-day-at-a-time journey.
Simple Cures, Simple Challenges
#1. Let your forgetting become a remembering — allow the thought “I’ve forgotten to pray!” to become the prayer “thank you for reminding me that you are with me! Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on my forgetful heart!”
#2. Reach out from that internal place of a moment of Peace to check in with someone to ask “How is your Lent going?” Let that thought of “It feels like I haven’t really talked with anyone in forever” become an action of out-reach rather than a sense of alone-ness. Single parent or married-parents, parent-of-toddlers or parents-of-teens, older-Grandparent or younger-single-person—whatever the loneliness, we are each empowered to shift it just enough
How does the chaos in the world challenge your peace? And how do you find a rhythm that brings Peace back into the center of your life—especially during lent? What is really challenging your peace this lent??