I wrote this post today as an entry for the "Mary Moments Carnival" that will be hosted at "Behold Your Mother" on the 25th of this month. If you'd like to send me a link to a post about Mary on your blog by 2/20, I'll add it to the Carnival! Send the link to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our bedtime routine doesn't vary much from one night to the next. The last one to turn in walks Maddy down to the end of the driveway (about 500 feet). Last night Craig was exhausted, so I pulled on the parka and headed out with the leash and plastic baggie, to do "Doggie Duty."
Stepping off the porch, my foot struck an uneven patch in the cobbles, and my whole weight (never mind how much) landed on my ankle. My yell unnerved the dog, who proceeded to leap on me and give me a frantic tongue bath ... but my husband did not materialize, so I dragged myself back up on the porch on my hands and knees (in convenient reach of the dog) and let myself in the house. Oh, man, it hurt. A bad sprain.
This morning when I woke up, the pain (if anything) was worse, so Craig took the kids to school and left me packed on ice and pumped on Tylenol. Each footstep is painful, so I calculate the necessity of each move before I make it -- letting the dog out on my way to putting something in the microwave for lunch en route to the laundry room to shift each load, then retracing my steps as the crow flies to pick up lunch and let in the dog before collapsing, exhausted, on the couch.
Then it struck me ... I have to pick up the kids from school this afternoon. Unfortunately, the only pair of crutches in the house are in the basement. Well, I'd better get started.
I hopped into the basement, step by painful step, holding on to the rails. When I reached the bottom I scanned the area that ran the length of the house. There they were ... against the far wall, with a mountain of furniture and boxes standing between me and the crutches. Also little bits of shrapnel -- bolts and bits of toys and other bits of metal, making hopping out of the question.
Groan. Step. (Ouch.) Step. (Ouch.) Step. GRAB!!! Turn. Repeat.
Back on the couch, it occurred to me that what I had just done was a good metaphor for Lent. We see the prize on the other side ... and keep hobbling toward it, even if we have to limp a little. Our little crosses -- the fasting, the offerings, the aches and pains -- are not always pleasant. And yet, they pale by comparison to the sacrifice Our Lord made on our behalf, or to the real suffering the Blessed Mother endured, watching her Son.
For some of us, the crosses seem a great deal heavier, the obstacles all but obscuring the light ahead. This week I've been reading one of my favorite books, These Strange Ashes, by Elisabeth Elliot (Thomas Howard's sister). She writes:
"Faith's most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain. If God were God, if He were omnipotent, if He cared, would this have happened? Is this that I face now the ratification of my calling, the reward of obedience? One turns in disbelief again from the circumstances and looks again at the abyss. But in the abyss there is only blackness, no glimmer of light, no answering echo.
When I was sixteen years old, I copied in the back of my Bible a prayer of Betty Scott Stam's, whose visit in our home when I was very small made such an impression on me. Her prayer:
'Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit, use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.'" (TSA, 125-26).
This prayer of abandonment to the will of God is a powerful one ... one that, in reality, cannot be offered up except by grace. No doubt the Blessed Mother offered up a version of her own. As we enter the Lenten season ... may we make it ours as well.