Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Suffering Through Lent

It's that time of year again when we try to live a little more intentionally and austerely.  My post last year talked about giving things up, but this year, although I will attempt to cut back on sweets and beer, and to be more patient, I'm going to try giving up something else that is very uncomfortable for me.

The past few months I have been with my friends and family as they have dealt with a lot of tough life experiences, that are all pretty much the worst things that could ever happen to someone: an unexpected divorce and a miscarriage, thrown in with several very sick family members, hospital stays, rehab facilities, emergency surgeries and the usual anxieties brought about by uncertainty and depression.

I've spent a lot of time crying and praying with and for my loved ones going through these hard times.  I've tried to empathize with them as best I can and have called on God to give me the grace I needed to be compassionate and to speak words of love and encouragement when they were most needed.  Oftentimes it has been through food and sharing a meal that I have felt most useful.  When the heart and soul are hurting, a good meal can go a long way.

So this leads me to my Lenten resolution this year: I'm going to offer up my physical suffering in the gym and on the road to God for the relief of those who are suffering body and soul in this world.  This is something that is very awkward and  uncomfortable for me, so it'll be a real struggle, but it is something I want to do.

I spend a lot of time working out, and a lot of it is hard and challenging and often leaves me collapsed in a heap or wishing I could.  For years, I have owned that pain because it is mine.  It is born of my weaknesses, my laziness and my desire to push myself and work hard.  No one else owns that, it is all mine.  But maybe it shouldn't be, maybe it should belong to God.

Ever since I was in high school, Jo-Momma has always told me to "offer it up to the Lord" whenever I was going through a hard time.  I never really got what that meant.  I have a hard time letting go of my pain--it brings a sense of comfort, knowing that it's there, that not everything is rainbows and butterflies.  However, I recently read the story of Our Lady of Fatima and the story of those three kids truly suffering for the conversion of sinners made me finally see.  My discomfort, my pain is only temporary.  It makes me stronger both physically and mentally.  Holding onto it and keeping it for myself doesn't do me any good.  However, if I offer it up to the Lord, if I put it out there into the world to suffer in solidarity with, and relieve the pain of those who have been displaced in Syria or CAR or who are homeless or battered in my own city, I can do something with that discomfort other than just looking forward to the end of spinning class, the top of the hill, the Star Crunch waiting at home, or getting off the foam roller.

I don't think this is some noble thing that is going to solve all the world's problems, but if I can let go of that so that God can take away some one else's real and enduring pain for a few hours, then I'm going to try.  So instead of wishing for it to end, I'll try to be glad that I'm working out in prayer and with intention in my heart.   

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