How is your Lent going, so far, sisters?
Do you, like me, get frustrated with yourself sometimes because you feel like you should be doing a whole lot more? Do you feel like the moments you've intended to renew yourself in this season are slipping away as the rest of life takes over?
Right about now I usually start burning out. Every year as Ash Wednesday approaches, I convince myself that I should plan all the activities and sacrifices, or put pressure on myself to at least have some sort of great spiritual metamorphosis. I imagine that I'll emerge as this holy soul who’s full of focused prayer, spiritually present at Mass instead of stressing about getting us all dressed and there on time, that I'll become a mom with huge stores of patience, a giving and humble wife and friend, and a homemaker who actually gets the dishes done with time to spare.
The problem: that’s not real life, and God is not asking for me to make this season a kind of "join-every-spiritual-workout-plan-known-to-man" so that on Easter Sunday I can skip dreamily through fields of daisies into my spiritual happily ever after.
On the contrary, in today's Gospel—pretty much the the poster child reading for Lent, by the way—Jesus shows us that less is more. He strips away the distractions. He removes the loudness of the voices that threaten to overpower the voice of His Father. He limits His concern over food and drink and sustenance and instead seeks for His Father to sustain Him. He simplifies almost everything in His life so He can gain as much strength as possible from His Father...in order to face the even tougher road ahead. Though the harshness of the desert wears on His body, and though Satan tries his best to weasel his way into Jesus's wilderness, Christ's communion with God is unshakable. He emerges from the desert not free of trials, but with the necessary strength and relationship with God needed to overcome those trials--and even the most destructive of fates.
I think our God is inviting us to do the same. Strip down the distractions of life, close out those voices who try to shout over Him, and just be in His presence. For as often as we try to pour ourselves out into our "coulds" and our "shoulds," our God wants us to be still so He can pour Himself into us. The more we empty ourselves of our own expectations for this season, the more He can fill us with His strength for the road ahead, and fill our lives with the eternal joy of his resurrection.
Let's let ourselves off the hook when it comes to the pressure of accomplishing some fantastical Lenten resolution. Let's embrace a simplicity that allows us to prepare for the reality of Christ's Passion and join Him fully in the joyous victory of His Resurrection.
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and sometimes soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.