I had planned on writing something fresh this week for Lent. Posting some nice links. Coming up with a plan for my family's Lenten journey. How best to approach the foot of the Cross? How best to enter in to this time of repentance and renewal? Clever ideas for the littles. Practices for the older ones that will help them to mature in faith. A measured path of my own.
This weekend, praise God, I discovered that much of the work had been done for me. Trial, suffering, mortification, humiliation... all wrapped up in one big stressful package. Now, all we have to do is live through it with as much courage and virtue as we can. It won't be so much about the cute charts and clever sacrifice counters that I was hoping to use this year... the business has been taken out of my hands. This year, we are taking special stripes for Christ.
My dear 12-year old Cookie has been introduced to the world of meanness. Wickedness really. "Mean" doesn't quite hit the target. I can be mean to you and you can ignore me. Wickedness is meaner than mean. It aims and strikes to the heart of the victim and cuts them down when they can't run. It hurts on purpose, intentionally attempting to drive someone to a state of sorrow and humiliation and despair. It seeks to drive a wedge between a person and hope, joy, and safety.
Wickedness feeds on itself. It doesn't get tired and go away when it's all used up... it just festers. It strikes, watches for the injury... and grows larger in its repulsive self-centerd glee. When wicked people are permitted to attack innocence, they are not satisfied, but grow hungrier and more ruthless. They taste power and want more.
I don't know why children do this to each other or why adults find that they must join in on the "fun" and evil. The little girls cackle with their mothers and whisper and poison and find a way to injure. Girls of shallow character or weakness join the wolf pack in order to avoid being eaten and are generally eaten eventually anyway.
Mean secular mothers teach their girls how to rise to the top of the pack. Christian mothers raise their children for courage in these moments. It is why we count our Lenten journey on a symbolic chart, decorate our tables with ashes, give alms, and forgo sweets and meat. Some Lents take place on that training ground. Some take place on the battle field.
We have dealt with mean before. We have dealt with wicked before. And the one thing that we have learned as parents over the years is that wickedness accepts no compromise. Meetings, tears, bonding activities, talking, ignoring, imploring... they often mean nothing to the heart that has given itself over to wickedness. The Chief and I will not sacrifice our children to the pleasure of wicked people. We will not compromise with evil. These people might hurt my daughter. They might steal from her. They might do their very best to inflict painful wounds. But they will not destroy her so long as I have breath in me.
My heart was swollen with anger as I stepped into the confessional. Father encouraged me to think of Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross. Did she focus on the ones who did the evil? Did she yell at them or confront them? Where were her eyes? Where was her heart? There are times to stand up to evil (and this is one) but I must not lose focus. Where are my eyes? Where is my heart?
Monday night, Cookie and I lay side by side in the dark talking about sorrow and anger. Her sisters slept and the clock marked hours into the morning... and we talked. "I'm a tough Cookie, Mommy." I know you are, but when it hurts, I'm here.
Morning came and her eyes were dark and puffy. She seemed less confident than the day before and told me that it hurts. You're taking stripes for Him, sweetheart. It is a privilege. But I know it hurts.
I printed off our Lenten calendars today and we hope to receive ashes on our foreheads this evening. (We may need to sacrifice our desire to attend Ash Wednesday Mass as a family as signs of illness and pink eye are emerging.) I hope to make pretzels this year and make daily mass more frequently. There are books I want to introduce and activities to plan. We will make our Lenten sacrifices. Cookie is welcome to give up or add something this year as always, and I'm sure she will, but I suspect that what she is undergoing now is a greater sacrifice than anything she could impose upon herself.
She has given the mean people the best of herself. She has loved them and worked for them. She has supported them and cheered for them. She has gone the extra mile to make sure they were comfortable and able to be their best. In return, they have broken her heart and taken from her one of the great delights of her young life.
I spent the day yesterday thanking God for this gift. I thanked Him in pain, but I thanked Him. I told Cookie it is a gift because she suffers for Goodness and Truth. Her intellect nods in agreement and her heart reels with mine. It is a burning, a purging... a Lenten blessing. It is a gift of simplification. It exposes the wounded heart and sets a perfect foundation for renewal and... Easter.
I would take the suffering away from her if I could. But God knows everything, loves perfectly, and has power over everything...
and He has not chosen to take it away
. So, I will continue to give thanks and pray for the grace to kneel next to Blessed Mother, focus on Jesus, and lead my children to Love.
In the coming days, we are going to have to make some very hard decisions and I pray that we do the right thing. It is confusing. There are people who will be angry regardless of what we do. There will be those who misunderstand. There will be innocent people who might be negatively affected. There simply is no coming out of this without wounds all around. Such is the price of wickedness.
Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving. Repentance. Forgiveness. Mercy. Sacrifice... And a gift of suffering for Lent.
It was my plan to quiet the house today for Ash Wednesday. No music. No video. No computer. The first "no" fell when Cookie came to me and asked if she could buy a song for her ipod. She asked for "Blessings" by Laura story and I said yes. The second "no" fell when illness hit the house and I wanted a way to occupy the little ones quietly for a while. The third "no" fell when I let the tears fall for the first time through this mess and I was determined to lift up my heart in gratitude and joy. To do that (along with prayer), I decided to clarify my thoughts and write. And why not write it here?
My Lents, Advents and feasts never look quite like I imagine them anyway. Perhaps someday I will discover that the abandonment of my preferences in these things has been one of the greatest aids to my sanctification. I'm certainly praying that's the case.