The last six weeks have been anything but restful, reflective, or regenerating.
They have been exhausting.
They have been trying.
They have been weary.
Between two boys teething at what I consider a way-too-early age and several rounds of the stomach flu which have managed to make their way through just about everyone's digestive system in the house, there hasn't been much time or energy remaining for anything “additional”. The days drag but also fly. With the endless laundry, tired eyes, and seemingly super-strength germs, nothing beyond mere "surviving" has happened. Play dates have been cancelled, friend and family get-togethers have been skipped, and dinners have gone unmade and uneaten. I feel as though I've been existing in a "fog" of sorts, wrapped up in our own little piece of the world, just trying to make it through each day.
So this last Sunday I considered it nothing short of a miracle that all six members of our family were sitting in a pew together. We may have arrived late -- after the first two verses of the first hymn had been sung, in fact -- but we were there.
As we frantically removed coats from small girls and small boys from carseats, I heard the familiar melody and lyrics sweeping through the narthex: a Lenten hymn. And that's when I realized it. We were beginning Holy Week.
Arguably the most important week of the church year had begun and I almost hadn't noticed.
While growing up, if we were to miss a mid-week Advent or Lenten service, we had better have had a good excuse. Since becoming a mom nearly four years ago, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have made it to one -- and even less times I was still present at the end of the service. The late evening timing of them is just bad. Plain and simple. Unless we were to show up with all of the kids dressed in pajamas (which wouldn't be the worst thing, I suppose) and also wanted for the entire congregation to know what four over-tired children sound like at one time, there’s no way we could make it.
But what bothered me most while sitting there in the pew was not that we hadn’t managed to attend an official midweek Lenten service, but rather that nearly the entire season had passed with me barely giving it a second thought.
Why was my heart so ill-prepared simply because my current situation did not easily allow for attendance at a mid-week church service? Why hadn’t I taken even just a minute out of my day-to-day obligations and responsibilities to reread the Passion history or spend time in fervent prayer? And how could I celebrate the true joy of Easter only seven days from now without having spent the last six weeks reflecting on the innocent sufferings and death of my Savior? I desperately needed forgiveness for my negligence. But because of this very week, I had it.
Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to His own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Advent had been different.
No, we hadn’t figured out a way to teach our dogs how to keep watch over the kids while we snuck away to church. But I had definitely paid more attention.
Advent is easy.
Advent focuses on an enchanting winter’s night in which a tiny, perfect little baby was born into a hurting world. There is so much anticipation, so much to look forward to. You cannot really go anywhere in the weeks -- or months -- prior to Christmas without being reminded of the coming holiday. How could anyone not want to be ready?
But not Lent. Lent is different. While yes, the finale of the Lenten season is extremely joyous -- He has Risen Indeed! -- and glorified in our society, all events leading up to it are anything but. Sure, the stores are filled with Easter basket stuffers, brightly-colored eggs, and soft, cuddly bunnies and chicks; however, not one of these things help us to remember the cruel suffering and death our Lord endured in our place.
So now here we are, less than a week before Easter and I’m asking myself: Am I too late? Is it too late to ask God to prepare my heart? Is there enough time for Him to fill me with the Spirit so that I may experience the extreme sorrow and repentance spurred on by the afflictions of Jesus done out of love for each one of us?
I’m convinced the answer is no.
Do I hope and pray that God enables me to be more mindful the next time Lent rolls around? Most definitely. But simply because my circumstances gave my sinful nature the perfect excuse not to prepare up until this point does not mean all hope is lost.
Today I set up our Lenten wreath and I lit the candle at dinner. We talked to our girls again about all that Good Friday and Easter means for us and just what Pastor was referring to when he kept using the words “Palm Sunday” in church this weekend. I’m praying for the Lord to continue to fill my heart with the reflections of this Holy Week. I desire to be reminded of all that Christ endured, not only during Holy Week but throughout His entire life on earth as a result of my sin -- simply so that I may share in all of His glory.
And I am praying the same for you.
After all, we’re not just preparing for another holiday -- but rather an eternity. And I thank the Lord that this doesn't depend on anything I do.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.