This Lent has been crazy. It started off crazy and it has continued on that same path of craziness. But unlike most years, this Lent is easy. I mean, not EASY, but not full of nightmares and meltdowns like every other year during Lent since I was confirmed. I’m learning some pretty valuable lessons. Like giving up cussing AND drinking in the same year, is not for wimps!
Speaking of Lenten Lessons (ha! That sounds like a good name for a book.) A few weeks ago I was in a Facebook, ummmm, girl fight, I guess you could call it that. I flew into an emotional rant about another person’s weaknesses on my wall and it was not very pretty. BUT the thing is that God is so good that he has used that moment in my bad judgment to teach me somethings about myself and about how to be a better Christian. Let me share a few of those lessons.
It doesn’t matter what other people think of me. Seriously, it doesn’t. I think that sparky (aka the evil one) knows that we have this need to belong and so he begins this attack on our self-perception that makes us want to be a certain way so that nobody thinks we are “bad”, whatever “bad” is to others. The problem is that when we fall for this lie we begin to make ourselves into people who we are not. And Facebook can be the pit fall here. We start posting about our wonderful life as if it’s all great all the time and there is nothing hard or difficult going on in our life. Or we start trying to please everyone, but because everyone is different we become 10 different people to please them all. And that is the goal. If sparky can trick us into not being ourselves then he wins because who we are is who God created us to be, and He created us that specific way because that is how we will spread the Word of God. So when we aren’t our true selves, then guess what? We are not living God’s Will for us. Boom! That is the evil one’s only goal; for us not to live the Will of God. And it all begins (in this instance) with caring what people think of us. I am going to quit worrying about what people think of me and start worrying about how to live God’s Will for my life.
I can’t begin to do that until I quit wanting to cut people who make me mad. When this little incident happened I fell asleep crying because I no longer know how to deal with people who make me mad. Before I was Catholic that was an easy answer; I would fight them. Literally. I was made fun of in school up until I moved from the town I grew up in to the Texas panhandle in High School. It was in the High School that I learned very quickly that fighting was a way to survive. Even if you got your butt kicked. That was better than people thinking you were a punk. But the problem is that now, that can’t be my solution. I want to punch people in the throat. And I can’t. And it makes me mad. But I can tell my Lord about it. That is the beauty of a God who became man. He knows. I handed Him all my anger, all my pain, all my confusion, and all my wanting to punch this person in the face, and I told Him honestly that I did not really like being Catholic at that moment. Like always, Jesus took all of that and He helped me.
Beginning with helping me forgive the men in my life. (Which is where a lot of my anger was rooted) Then He went on to help me not be so angry at people who disagree with me on issues like abortion, the Catholic Church, gay marriage, and all the other “hot button” issues. Suddenly I can talk to anyone, about anything and I don’t get mad. Well, that isn’t entirely true, I still haven’t been able to get to that point with über Catholics who think they are smarter than the Pope, but with God’s Grace, I will get there.
All of this made me think of St. Peter in the garden when he cut the soldier’s ear off. He must have felt just like I did when Jesus told him to put the sword down and the healed the guy! Only Jesus would do that. I have thought about that scripture for a long time. Why did Jesus do that? Where I went to High School that would be considered a betrayal. A lack of loyalty. But Jesus doesn’t betray us and He is always loyal to us, even to the point of laying on a Cross. So why would He do that? Because Jesus knew that we could not be instruments in building the Kingdom if we go around cutting everyone who hates Him. All that will do is build up hate in our hearts;
the complete opposite of what He died for.
Jesus further proved this as He sat and loved the men who were flogging Him and mocking Him. He didn’t tell them “I’m God, and you are going to PAY FOR THIS!!” No, He sat there and loved them through the pain of their blows and their words. He asked for God to forgive them because He knew that in reality, they had no idea what they were doing. If they did they would have fallen on their knees just like the Centurion did later. The same goes for the people who still mock Him, and His Church. They don’t know what they are doing. What we are commissioned to do is follow the example of our Lord and love them through the blows and words. Is it easy? No, but Jesus never said that it would be.
This is how we build the Kingdom. By speaking the Truth in Love. After 4 years of Fr. Jonathan saying this to me, I think that I am finally getting it. I am finally getting that I am in control of my actions. Nobody else is. That comes with great freedom and great responsibility. I can choose to be kind, even when the person I am talking to is spewing hatred about my beloved Pope. Going off on that person will not make them see the Truth any more than punching them in the face will make them see how loving Catholics are. It doesn’t make sense to try to do that. What makes sense is to realize that what people say doesn’t make truth the truth or make the truth false. The truth is either true or it isn’t, regardless of what anyone says. And my salvation does not depend on what truth someone else knows, or on whether they choose to follow Christ. Their salvation is not my responsibility. My only responsibility is to preach the Good News of Christ. Sometimes that requires words, sometimes it requires saying things that are not comfortable, sometimes it just requires having a cup of coffee with a pro-choice anti-Catholic atheist while talking about dogs or the weather. Maybe someday it will need a Joan of Arc type defense, but for now peace is the message I keep getting. Peace is the answer. Real peace, not sunshine and lollipops peace where we accept injustice because of twisted understanding of what is considered “judging”.
It seems like the theme of Lent 2013 for me is Peace. The Peace that only Christ our Lord can give.