Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Lent that Would Not End

If you have kids, you might have had the, uh, pleasure of learning this song:

(If you really want punishment, you can go here and listen to it for 10 hours straight!)

Well, a few years ago I had a Lent that remind me of this song.

"This is the Lent that does not end/ It just goes on and on my friend
Some people/Started praying it not knowing what it was
And they'll continue praying it forever just because...."

In fact, the whole year felt like a Lent, and then it was followed up by another Lent and almost another whole year of a similar feeling. Just back up a couple years' worth of posts and you'll get the feeling of it.

I look back now and I see it has been a time of intense purification. When I started I had a true but purely theoretical understanding of what needed to be purified in me. I had no idea what the process I knew I was headed for felt like, and I didn't really understand in any experiential way God's purposes in bringing me through it. As Soren Kierkkegard famously said, life can only be understood backwards but has to be lived forwards. So I was left in a place for a long time where I was devoid of understanding. That is an extremely difficult place for me to be. I thrive on being able to understand and figure stuff out.

I announced to myself and others a few times during this process that everything was "all done." And I was wrong each time. So I am not now saying that all of that is done, and I know for a fact it is not. When I touch that spot in me that knows that, I still experience the struggle and the desire for complete resolution. There is a very real possibility that it will not be in this life. And that's ok.

What I have gained and learned in this time is all the gift of God. He knows how much I have fought against and resisted Him every step along the way of His trying to bless me. He knows how tenderly and respectfully and gently He prepared me for very difficult moments.

I realize that while God is deeply concerned with the healing of our souls and the wholeness of our personhood, He has a purpose that is higher than all that. He doesn't heal us just so that we can live peaceful, happy lives on this earth for the rest of our years. He heals us so that we are whole, so that we possess ourselves, and so that in possessing ourselves we can make of ourselves an oblation to Him. With St. Teresa of Avila we can then say, "I am yours; I was born for you. What is your will for me?"  There is absolutely nothing this world can offer that is worth exchanging for the delight of being the Lord's in this way.

Humiliation, anguish of heart, the pressing down of the cross, experiences of rejection, of relationship being repudiated, calumny, conflict.... This is the way the Lover brings His beloved deeper into intimacy with Him. This was His experience. To have it offered to any soul is like a golden crown being extended. How often we go chasing after our favorite pretty trinket instead of bowing to receive the great honor of such a crown.

God's ways simply are amazing. Recently I was looking at a sculpture I own, of Jesus embracing His cross on the via dolorosa. It occurred to me that I was, quite literally, Jesus' cross. My sin caused His suffering, caused His cross, and His embrace of His cross was His embrace of me. His embrace of His cross bore the fruit of the Eucharist, which now brings healing to the entire universe and transforms me into Him, makes us one. And yet still today, that Eucharist, that grace, that healing, that transformation, that union, can be rejected by me and by anyone. But Jesus loved anyway. That love is my salvation.

And He calls me to live His very life, in imitation, in union.

Let us praise God now and forever. He alone is worthy of our worship. To Him be glory forever.

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