The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. Pope Benedict XVI
I am a part of a Lenten Ladies group that came together this year to pray and offer support for one another during Lent this year. The agreement among us as we began was that we would be serious about mortification and reparation and that we would really try to work on our root sins. We assessed which were our biggest root sins by using the tools found in Navigating the Interior Life, which breaks down your root sins into three categories of Pride, Vanity, and Sensuality. You will find all seven of the deadly sins can be broken down into these categories.
Our Leader, Ashley Blackburn, showed us how when we recognize the sin we commit most habitually we can identify what gift of ours actually is being stolen by Satan, which is why he tries so hard to hit us in these areas. Satan doesn’t want our gifts being used for God’s Kingdom. We outlined some examples of what this may look like;
To be sure, you have many gifts that Satan may be trying to steal, but this process just helps you to identify some things. Each persons process and gifts will be different because we are all different.
For me, my most of my personal habitual sins fall into the sensuality category. My gifts include prophecy, pastoring and teaching. I have a spirit of anxiety that attacks me. I hate being uncomfortable. I choose comfort to soothe me. I cling to it instead of to God. I have asked God to purge me. Purging hurts. But if we ever want to live in a world of true peace, one which is of God, this purging is necessary. If we want to make it to the glory of heaven, this purging is necessary. This is the path of Sainthood. And we can be purified here or in the afterlife, but all of the Saints tell us that being purged here is better. The longing for God in purgatory is not something we should strive for. We should always strive for heaven in the hopes of purgatory, instead of striving for purgatory, with the possibility of ending up in hell.
If we live our lives seeking the union with the will of God, we may just become a Saint, but the reason we should seek it isn’t because of accolades from others about Saintly glory, but instead because being a Saint is being made into Love. We become another Christ.
We should know that when we pray God will answer our prayer, especially when we pray to be conformed to His will. I have prayed for God to purify me. But I have always deep down wanted a say in how the purification goes. Which isn’t really purifying me, it is just another way of my clinging to comfort. For me, if I pick my mortification to temper my comforts, I am actually really just falling back into comfort. This is not the case for everyone, but for me, it became an earning of purification rather than letting God do the work in me.
So here I was, about to start Lent, working diligently on how I would be purified. I was going to give up sweets, fast more, exercise more. I was going to be made to conform to God’s will by all these things I chose to do.
God had other plans. God decided he was going to purify me in a way that would actually purify me instead of my agenda of how to be purified. And y’all, man does it hurt.
On Monday night of this week my mother fell and broke her hip. We were in the middle of an ice storm and it was an impossibility for me to get to the hospital to be with her, I had to totally surrender the situation to God and trust that she would be cared for.
On Tuesday morning an angel of a neighbor who had a big truck drove me to see my mother. Mom was wheeled to surgery for a hip replacement. My 80 1/2 year old mother has a body that has been battle worn. She cried in pain throughout the day. She has dementia so she was confused as well. She spoke of her dead friends and relatives being in the room with us. She saw the Blessed Virgin out the window (it was a chimney of some sort – but I liked what she was seeing better). I was racked with anxiety that she may die. A second wave of snow and ice came down, I had no car, I decided to settle in the chair the hospital had to sleep in my mask that was required for Coronavirus precautions. I was just grateful they let me in. In no time at all it became apparent that the chair would not stay reclined and I would be catapulted to an upright position if I chose to sleep in this chair. I spent Tuesday night, heading into Ash Wednesday sleeping on the floor of the hospital.
Obviously sleep escaped me. I felt jealous of Saint Joseph who so trusted God amid his bewildering circumstances that he was able to sleep.
I should note the blessings that came along the way. There was the surgeon who prayed over my mom for God to guide his hands. There were the nurses who took care of my mom as if she were their own mother. There was the palliative care doctor who told me that God is the author of all life and he is the one who decides when people get to go home. This is just one of the many reasons I love living in the south. That as filled with sin as we all are, people still believe.
As Ash Wednesday progressed, mom spiked a fever. She seemed more confused and lost, and at points wasn’t able to speak or be woken up. For my Ash Wednesday fast of two small meals and one regular meal, I had a brownie for dinner. It was all that was available and I just didn’t think I could cope if I gave up that sweet and ate nothing. I didn’t go to an Ash Wednesday Service, I didn’t watch one online. I did read the Gospel of John to my mother because she had managed to ask me to at one point. May God’s power be made perfect in my weakness.
In the past I would have let the demons of “you’re not good enough to even make the first day of Lent in your mortification and you didn’t attend services,” pummel me. But in my exhaustion I just relied on God and asked him to understand. I know he does.
By Wednesday night we knew mom had an infection and antibiotics were started and she began to improve. On Thursday morning, secure in the fact that she was okay, my husband dug our car out and came and got me.
I was very excited to sleep in my own bed. But when I got home, one of my children had major issues I won’t go into here. I ended up sleeping nearer to them because of the situation.
The demons pummeled me with “what if’s”. I kept being dragged into the past, “what if you had been a better mother? What if you had been a better daughter?” And into the future, “what if your mom dies, what if your child fails?” And sleep escaped from me. I longed for my own bed.
I realized that God was allowing all of this. In fact, when I asked to be purified, God was rejoicing. It means I want to be in union with his will. But it hurts deeply.
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Colossians 1:24
As I navigate the next few weeks, I pray for the grace to live in the present moment with God. I ask Him to sit in the middle of the mess I am in. I surrender my parents and my children to Him, for I am not their Savior. I take one breath at a time and one step at a time. I cry a lot. And I can not worry what others think about me. I have only to cling to God. I fully experience these Lenten mortifications that have been sent my way. I am sobbing through them, sometimes unable to catch my breath. But I mean it sincerely when I say, I am grateful for them. I am grateful for a God who took on this lowly flesh and experienced all of this with us. He didn’t have to, but in doing so he opened up heaven for us, if we only let him take us there.