The Lent we get isn’t the one we choose
When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth (Luke 11:21).
In recent years and especially this one, I’ve noticed that the Lent we envision isn’t the one that lands in our laps.
One year just before Ash Wednesday as I’d put finishing touches on a mental list of Lenten “to dos,” my husband called in mid-morning – something he never does. His decades-long position was terminated. His employer was sold, all health and other benefits would cease tomorrow, the company car would be returned, and severance (in his contract) was being fought. It came right after I’d lost a longtime client due to budget cuts. We plunged from a handsome income straight to nothing, in a blink. The world seemed to bust from its axis, and shock temporarily canceled my vision and hearing – I saw a ‘snowstorm’ inside, my ears hissed like a steam train. I never heard the phone crash to the floor – I almost did the same thing.
The house. Our youngest still in college. The mortgage. The last of the Christmas bills. Everything spun in a blur as I tried to get a snapshot of what we had, what we owed, and how we’d survive. Paralyzed by whom to call and what to prioritize, I made another list (one of my habits). I calculated how long our cash could last, when we’d need to begin tapping untouchables (retirement accounts, etc.), and then selling – house, cars, stuff. Our canvas of life crumpled. I began to envy anyone who had a job, any job.
And then I thought of God. How could you let this happen? Are we being punished? My type-A disposition kicked in to overdrive, my anxiety stealing rationale. It would be nice to say I jumped into prayer, but not quite. All I could manage to do was cry to Christ for help. Even tears didn’t flow normally
In a daze, I went to our parish church. My favorite priest was walking through that morning. His usual chipper greeting collapsed at seeing me. I told him everything, admitting my utter fear. Like a father, he hugged and assured me God was with us, and would help indeed. He promised his personal prayers. I could hardly stand. I was drained, with yesterday’s makeup streaking, and it wasn’t even noon. He heard my Confession.
He then explained this was a trial, and that we had to be very vigilant about our faith and prayer life. We had to humbly trust God like never before, not ourselves or our resumes or our business networks. God alone. Had I ever done that?
“You need supernatural courage to keep your inner court undisturbed,” Father told me. I took up the daily rosary, and prioritized prayer. I cut obsessional TV shows, and other time-wasters. Each hour needed to be intentional.
Lent is also a time of great heavenly reversals. By Holy Week, we both had new positions. And we’d become more closely acquainted with our lifetime Friend, The Lord Himself.
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.