Sunday, March 18, 2012

Forty Days of Stinky Fish

As a Catholic, Lent is a time of change. It gives us a chance to step back from normal life, to find the sinful areas we should avoid and the areas in which we can grow spiritually. Lots of times, people choose (appropriately) to give up something that is a bad habit or add something that will be more life-giving.

Forty days. From Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday.

It begins with ashes on our foreheads as a sign of repentance…an outward sign of our inner desire to change. “Lent” is a latin term for “spring”…a perfect time to grow spiritually and emotionally.

My “Stinky Fish Lent” came about after prayer in discerning where I needed work. I would gladly give up laundry, dishes or changing diapers, you know? But knowing that those very actions are a key part of my vocation right now (and to do them with joy, no less!), that wasn’t an option.

One of our friends always refers to the tasks that are the least appealing as the “stinky fish projects”. The ones that you think about, sometimes obsess about, but never choose willingly to do. Often times, they become much bigger in your mind and actually finishing them – much less starting them – becomes an often unattainable goal.

And that’s when I realized that I needed my Lenten experience to be stinky.

There are places in my life that need work – some big, some small – but all with one or two steps that need to be done in the right direction. It could be a phone call I need to make, a unfinished project that needs finishing, an email sent…all things that keep my mind cluttered with thoughts of “what if” and fears of starting.
During the first few days of Lent, I was so discouraged. It was hard. HARD. To the point that I was ready to call it a day on Lent, and move right into Easter.

I found myself trying to sit in Adoration, with a squirmy toddler and a relentless preschooler who wanted to hang from the church’s rafters before he would sit still to pray. I packed up the boys out of the chapel, moved into the main church, sat down on the floor with them and cried. I sat in front of the Eucharist – albeit through the glass chapel doors now – and prayed for grace to face the stinkiest of Lenten obstacles. During that, one Wee Ski played with the wooden rosary and quietly cooed. The other took off his leather shoes and started throwing them at the pews.

And that’s when I realized that my experience was exactly what it is supposed to be. Change isn’t easy. Facing challenges and difficulties never is. But it’s in that experience that growth begins.

The Greek word “metanoia” means a turning. Literally: to change one’s mind.

For me, a stinky Lent has given me the chance to address the things I have put off the longest in order to turn my heart and soul and focus back to the things that matter most. Some of the tasks have been simple but nagging: hanging the curtains in our bedroom (Merry Christmas 2010, Jonathan!), finding order in the living room and kitchen again, potty training Thomas. Some have been more difficult: addressing hurts of the heart, harsh words and broken relationships.

Both external and internal turnings – not easy, but always worthwhile.

Simply: this Lent has been emotional and challenging.

I guess that’s how it’s designed. A 40 day journey to prepare my heart for Easter. Stinky is how it should be.

And at least this kind of ‘stinky’ has a sweet reward of healing, hope and peace.

I pray that your Lenten experience is a little stinky too. The good, sweet kind.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Hi. I don't know you and you don't know me. I'm a friend of your friend, Stella. I just want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. Whenever a new post shows up in my google reader, I save it until I have a few minutes to read it, not just skim and look for pictures. I always leave with a variety of feelings...amused (sometimes highly amused), inspired, challenged, and blessed. While I love how you write, I really love what you write. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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