This has been a Lent like no other. Yesterday I had an experience in prayer that was both instructive and rather hilarious at the same time. The cool thing here is that it shows me how God knows me way down deep and knows exactly what I need and His arm is never shortened to answer my need, immediately.
Mass pressed in on me yesterday. I felt, keenly, this matter of Jesus purposefully setting off for the cross, and His call to "come and follow." And my repugnance. Crosses hurt, they're scary, and I don't have your resoluteness Lord. I thought of how women get to three days before going into labor and tend to get this feeling "I can't go through with this. I don't know how." I had tears slipping down my cheeks from time to time, but I held the dam in place.
Some stuff happened after Mass. Finally by mid-afternoon I was able to take a long walk to a local adoration chapel and plop myself there for a couple of hours.
I presented myself to the Lord, prayed part of the Liturgy of the Hours, and meditated on a certain phrase that struck me. Finally, I was able to grab the need in my heart and present it to the Lord. In doing so, I let the dam go and I cried a bit. It seems I keep my needs surrounded by tears, to keep them moist, but if I've been out of touch with them for a bit the tears and the realization have to come out together.
Now I wasn't sobbing, but apparently I was audible enough for the young woman sitting just ahead of me to hear this transition in my prayer. She popped up and sat next to me, her sweet young face shining out behind her mantilla. "Hi," she said sweetly. "Would you like a hug?"
Because I was in the midst of conversing with the Lord of the Universe, I found it natural to answer her honestly. "No, not really."
"Would you like a rosary?" She held one out to me. "I have one in my pocket." "Ok, well I'll be praying for you, then." "Thank you," I told her.
I immediately added to the realization of my need in my prayer. "Obviously, Lord, I also have a real need to be myself."
I almost started laughing after this exchange, but I held to a big smile instead. I don't oppose hugging per se, but I'm a bit fussy about those I want hugging me. There was a time when I would have felt obligated to submit myself to this girl's hug, perceiving it as my duty to meet her need to try to help me. This time, instead, I took her offer at face value and simply refused it, because I knew it was not a fit. And knowing it wasn't a fit was actually a wonderful fit.
This lesson of Being Myself is one that the Lord has been driving home to me now for 20 years. I forget easily how important this is. I forget easily that my life is not given to me to be lived generically. I forget easily that being myself is not a matter of pride vs. humility, it is simply a matter of reality. "Blue is blue and must be that, but yellow is none the worse for it." I forget that each creature of God being what it is is the means by which God is glorified, peace reigns on earth, and everyone gets what they need. I forget that God is adamant about human dignity, including in my personal case. The only way to live in harmony with our immense dignity, with our unique creation, in humility, is to lose self-consciousness, that "self factor" that has us thinking about and worrying about ourselves. It is a delicate balance, but denying one's own need, refusing to own it, keeping it in with all the tears, is a sure way of falling off balance and needing to use all sorts of fake props to keep straight. Those fake props are sin.
So, I'm heading off into Holy Week, following the Lord. The cross and pain still looms. But I am reminded that God loves me just the way I am. And when it comes down to it, being loved -- being with one who loves me -- enables me to face just about anything.