Discouraged as Lent wore on, Elizabeth Reardon looked for God's answer to gain strength for the journey, and found it in a praying friend.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 8-9)
I was beginning to wish I had given up chocolate for Lent. Nonetheless, the overachiever that I long to be decided to go for a more challenging endeavor. Couple that with a healthy dose of Catholic guilt and you have the perfect storm. What is it you may ask that is vexing this Lenten pilgrim so? An ingrained sneaky habit of gripe and honesty.
How did I become a new master at the subtle art of complaint and disclosure? For it seems that I no longer could leave unattended the age old rhetorical question, "How are things going?" with a simple "Good, and you?" And let's be honest, this is the response the majority of people who ask the question are looking for. This socially accepted elementary exchange of greetings had become, for me, a unexpected conversation of all that was on my plate that day.
Yet, am I suggesting that lying is a better option? No, but that is the excuse that led me down this path in the first place. One that, if indulged, can cloud our perception to all of the blessings we have been given and to the grace that awaits in the struggle.
And it isn't that life is going poorly for me at all. My day is often busy and full, true, but would I really want it any other way? Not at all, but I had begun to bear my gifts and invitations to grow as if they were burdens.
This is what the LORD says: "When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return?" (Jeremiah 8:4)
Not once but 3 times, last week, God sent reassurance. Through scripture, the unknowing words of a friend and then a priest his message came through loud and clear. "Stop being so hard on yourself! You act as if you are alone and unloved." Failure doesn't come from not achieving our goals the first time, but rather success is found in falling and getting back up again. Just take a glance at Peter- apostle, saint and martyr who publicly denied Christ three times. God not only forgave him, but offered him the opportunity to profess his renewed faith three times in return.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
So it is with God and our walk as well. We are a people intended to be continually renewed and reconstructed to His image and purpose. And as the greatest human resource manager ever, God places us in one another's lives to provide encouragement, and to strengthen us for the journey. That is when His answer to my dilemma came to me.
She was visibly tired and worn. New expectations at work, long hours and demands at home had taken its toll. We spoke briefly and it became apparent that each of us was in need of a companion, and a purpose to help this Lent. The idea of a prayer promise, a commitment that when things got overwhelming or we began to slip this Lent we don't just pray for ourselves but for the other. It is a positive way to take the challenge and invitation to grow closer to Christ and place it exactly where it is meant to be: in community.
As the greatest human resource manager ever, God places us in one another's lives to provide encouragement, and to strengthen us for the journey. #catholicmom
Father, today, I am ready to take on Your will and plans again. I recognize Your love, mercy and forgiveness are immense and I am no longer defined or held captive by past mistakes. It is only because of this that I am able to get up again, or to have the strength to help another. Thank you for showing me that we are never alone and that Your Spirit always stays by my side. Sweet Consolation, let me with each step grow to be who you created me to be.
Copyright 2021 Elizabeth Reardon
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About the Author
Elizabeth Reardon is Director of Parish Ministries and Pastoral Associate for the Collaborative Parishes of Resurrection & St. Paul in Hingham, Massachusetts; a wife and mother of three; certified spiritual director; and writer at TheologyIsAVerb.com. Her writing is an invitation to seek and create space for God in the midst of the busyness of everyday life.