Saturday, March 24, 2012

This year's Lenten observance

Most years, I take the whole Catholic teaching about how to observe the season of Lent quite seriously. I commit to a Lenten discipline and work hard to stick with it. I spend an increased amount of time in meditation and prayer.

This year has been an odd one. I did not commit to a specific Lenten discipline. I have been probably less disciplined about my prayer life than usual. Bible study has been a sporadic thing full of fits and starts. I have pretty much followed Church teaching about avoiding meat on Fridays, but compared to most years, it has been a weak effort.

And yet, I don't feel as guilty as I would anticipate, either. Because in spite of those apparent failings, I don't feel like I have failed God or let Him down. I just feel like my life is in a different place than it has ever been before, and that my calling is different as a result.

This year, my only natural born son is a senior in high school. He has matured wonderfully, and he is preparing to go off to college. My job is about done in terms of helping him mature into a healthy young man and giving him the freedom he needs to try his wings and go find his place in the world. I am sure college will have its ups and downs, but I think he has what he needs to work his way through it and find the path that is right for him. At this point, my role is about helping him prepare to make a strong start into adult life.

This year is also the year that our not-born-to-us son entered our life. I write about him fairly often, but I think it is usually about him, not about me and what working with him means in my life. But I really do feel that God has brought me to this point – that at this moment in my life, it is my calling to help this wonderful young man move through the transitions he needs to make and get to the point where he, too, will be ready to spread his wings and fly off into adult life ready and able to thrive and flourish. Working with Warren is very rewarding, but it is often exhausting, too. He can be inspiring and exhilarating, and he can also be challenging and frustrating. There are days when I feel like we are getting nowhere, and then there are days when I get glimpses of just what a great man he will be when it all falls into place.

Even though I haven't prayed as much as usual, have read the Bible less than usual, and have felt too harried to follow a specific Lenten discipline, I do feel that I am in communion with God and doing what I should be doing. And even though Warren and his lovely, intelligent girlfriend both currently disbelieve in God and are sometimes eloquent in their disbelief, I feel closer to Him than ever.

For me, this is the Lent of helping young men search for jobs and comforting them when they don't materialize; of taking a young man out for driving practice and his driving test; of trying to to foster good habits that will serve for a lifetime and being there to provide support when life gets overwhelming. It is the Lent of supporting my boss, my church choir director, my close friends as they deal with job stress, conflicting demands and the illness of loved ones. It is the Lent of learning to be selfless in a non-theoretical way; of putting others ahead of myself in the press of day-to-day life; of picking up the pieces when my loved ones experience disappointment or despair. It is the Lent of learning that my needs often come last, and that is not a bad thing.

It is the worst of Lents, it is the best of Lents. And I wouldn't trade it for any other.

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