Lent is rapidly drawing to a conclusion. I’ll tell ya, I won’t be sorry to see the backside of this one. Ironically, I have probably done the best ever in keeping with my resolution for the thing I gave up (any and all ice cream, including the weight watchers ones I previously ate almost daily). Haven’t had one bite of any frozen dairy treats since Mardi Gras.
However, that’s where the victory begins and ends. My other lenten intention was to spend more time in prayer, and to carry my cross gracefully. Instead of doing either of those things, I flat out refused to have anything to do with my cross or with God.
The month of March has been one big suck-fest, with a ratio of bad news to good of about 4:1. It all culminated in one of the worst weeks I’ve had in a long time, last week. If I could freeze one moment in time to describe how this lent has been, it would have to be this:
Last week, on the 4th anniversary of my miscarriage, and cycle day 2 (signifying another failed cycle come and gone), I pulled into my driveway to be greeted by a 6 foot tall inflatable stork in my neighbor’s yard, announcing to the world that my neighbor just gave birth to her third baby in three years.
Once I stopped sobbing, I laughed. And laughed. And laughed. Because come on, that’s funny, right? I left Facebook so I could avoid all the baby stuff for a while, and lo!, apparently I will not be let off the hook so easily. Nothing like being flipped off by the universe.
So, I made my husband take me out, and I drank one of those gigantic 16 point frozen margaritas and enjoyed every delicious boozy sip.
When I was driving to work later last week, I heard a song that I’ve heard a million times before, but it cut right through the crap and touched me deeply.
There are those who know sorrow
and those who must borrow
and those whose lot in life is sweet.
Well I’m drunk on self-pity,
scorned all that’s been given me,
I would drink from a bottle labeled Sure Defeat. (Over the Rhine)
Yep. Nailed it. I’ve been drunk on self-pity. And trust me, it’s been easy to get hammered, because the hits just keep on coming.
They always will. I’ve been waiting and waiting for the moment when I will have reached the threshold for one life’s suffering, and when I will start to be like “normal” people, who have normal problems, like less money than they’d like, a few extra pounds to lose so they can wear a bikini, losing their temper at their kids sometimes, getting a flat tire. I’m never going to be someone who only has those problems.
That’s not the cross I’ve been given. The cross I’ve been given is to carry the deep, abiding sorrows of my life, the grief and pain, and physical brokenness, and get through the day. To get up, get dressed, put a smile on my face, and love my family, even when I’m empty and aching inside.
My family is easy to love, and there’s the silver lining. I have a wonderful marriage, with an amazing man. Many don’t and wish to. I have one beautiful, healthy, smart, amazing little girl. Many don’t and wish to. Yes, I have been greatly blessed.
But blessings and sorrows aren’t mutually exclusive. It isn’t as though we can only have one or the other at any given moment. Yes, I have been blessed very richly with my husband, daughter, and others who love us. But the thing about grief, about the kind of sorrow that I carry, is that it doesn’t go away. It stays with you always. Even during the good times. Even when I’m happy. Even happy moments are tinged with sorrow.
Which makes me think of another song I love:
I never learned to count my blessings, I choose instead to dwell in my disasters.
Its easier sometimes to focus on all the crap that’s been thrown my way. Its partially temprament (melancholic FTW), and partially sin. It’s lacking in belief in the infinite goodness of God. However, I realized the other day that I can look at all of those painful experiences, and I can conclude that God has abandoned me. Or I can look at those experiences, and the fact that I’m still standing, and conclude that God has been with me all along, and that’s why I’m not in the nut house or at the bottom of a bottle. His grace, and his grace alone. From the same song I quoted above:
Well, I looked my demons in the eye
You see, I’ve been to hell and back so many times,
I must admit you kind of bore me.” (Ray LeMontagne)
Hell and back.
Then I went to Mass on Sunday, and the homily was exactly what I needed to hear. In fact, during the gospel passion narrative, I was struck by the image of Christ carrying his cross, his body bloody and broken. The thing is, he was carrying mine too. Because I refused to carry it. I was running from it, so he sighed, picked it up, and carried them both down that long road to calvary. Far from being a Veronica or a Simon, lightening the load of Our Lord, I added to it with my stubborn refusal to carry this cross I’ve been given.
I remembered a quote I had read recently:
Carry your cross; don’t make the cross carry you.
Then the priest talked about Simon, and how Simon was forced against his will to help Christ carry the cross, and yet he is remembered for all time in Scripture, because he did it. Even though he wasn’t consulted about it, he didn’t get a choice, he still did it.
Although lent is over tomorrow, and I’m not sorry to see it gone, I am grateful for the kick in the pants that I needed, to realize that one way or another, my cross will be carried. Either by me, willingly and for my salvation, or by Christ, who willingly adds to his suffering because I blatantly refuse mine.
As hard as it is to accept, the choice is crystal clear.