Every Lenten Friday a well-meaning family member kindly mentions that because I am pregnant I am exempt from all obligation. And, yes, if you google “Pregnancy and Lent” you find phrases like “invalids, pregnant, and nursing mothers are exempt.” But, during the near decade since I have become Catholic, Lent has come into golden focus as an opportunity to enter into the call to follow Jesus into the desert and more fully to rise with him in the power of his resurrection. Who wants that, please? (Insert this convert here, with hands raised, waving wildly on the front row!).
…But, what if one poignant way to experience this journey is to allow God to handpick your Lenten path for you?
Lent is a time of reflecting, of taking stock of one’s life, of slowing down, of evaluating. It is a vital time to test whether we are operating out of the core values of Christ that we so desire to follow. The decided preparation is one that affects the individual in the physical and literal sense, but most significantly with the aim of a definitively spiritual change. This journey brings us out of ourselves and into an anchored awareness of who God is and of how he means to root us and ground us in his love to change our whole lives, in order to bring us more fully into our mission.
Although I am “exempt,” this requisite Lenten preparation in the physical and spiritual sense is not lost on me at all. In fact, I find my pregnant, mothering self in a season of preparation and reflection in the same vein as the Church itself. I am slowing down. I am taking stock of our family, of where we are in our marriage, in our parenting, and in our lives. What does this new child, this new call mean to me as a mother and to our family as a whole? No matter how daunting this preparatory inventory is, I am drawn to the core truth: what matters most is that once again we have opened ourselves to God’s chosen journey, and he means to bring new life into the world through us.
As I witness my abundant belly and feel God’s life wriggle within me, this physical and literal experience brings the Lenten journey intensely into focus. Every Friday, every meal (that I am not fasting from!), every effort devoted to the benefit of my sweet baby bump is my handpicked Lenten path. This Lent has offered me a unique perspective, and I am not exempt from a needed change in perspective. My chosen journey of pregnancy will stretch well past forty days, and in turn, my heart will be stretched for a lifetime of days. My Lenten journey will allow me not only to give things up but to offer up myself for another (child!) for the good of a greater eternal love.
“This is My body which is given for you.” (Luke 22:19)