This sudden onslaught of chaos can make it all seem like everything is spinning so far off the axis. The drastic measures of cancellations and quarantines expose the honest questions and the feeling of being powerless. On a global level, and as mothers, we are acutely aware of our limitations—so much is beyond our control. We are forced to answer lies of fear and scarcity in the face of hardship. And everyone is sent home to sit with these big questions and without means of distraction. Sent home to be with children, spouses—without progress or plans to be had.
From the beginning of Lent, I knew God was asking me to give up fear and anxiety that lay hold in the secret places in my daily life in exchange for deeper transformation. But just last week, I was still asking God to bring this discernment into focus. I kept praying: “Lord, re-boot my Lenten observances—you see my heart, lead the way.” Little did I know what he would ask of me (and the whole lot of us). Come mid-Lent, I see this paradoxical path to more of Jesus unfolding. He had whispered love from the outset—wooing toward a promise of deeper transformation when the dark ash marked my forehead.
But how could I know it would be right through the eye of this? A Pandemic.
It is the end-of-week rush when it begins to sink in. On Friday, I run into the grocery store to grab just those few items for our Lenten dinner. I carry the baby on me and hurry into my local grocery. I stare, stunned and in disbelief, at whole shelves that lay bare and completely empty. As a mother of a household of seven, I stiffen because this gaping site makes me feel as naked as Eve when faced with paradise slipping away. I look around at people with grocery carts piled high. I wonder what to do next.
Even the parking lot holds a certain air—a gravitational pull of panic. I pause, thinking of the global call to prayer—for those who are physically vulnerable. I think of my own mother fighting cancer, and of how even the environment now proposes a threat to her frail beauty.
Then, after the fifth stop, still looking for toilet paper, I think again of my Lenten observances that I keep meaning to make way right into my daily actions. Well, giving up toilet paper could certainly be added to the plan. I pause from my errands to check a message that lights up in urgency. My heart sinks heavy as I realize that I may have to mourn the loss of beautiful spring plans that I have been working hard for and dreaming of.
I arrive home and begin to help the children empty backpacks from school—home for Spring Break, but with all of their textbooks (for impending school closures). I already have two at home during the days, but doubling that load is no small thing. I have homeschooled for seven years in the past, and I am well aware of this call and what it means to our household of limited time and resources. This could certainly be an applied work of penance.
I blink hard and my throat tightens: all Masses have been cancelled through March. Another message—it’s my sister asking for prayer. Again, from my college-aged son. The unexpected is redirecting so many expectations held high. My eleven-year-old asks if the world is ending. As the economic implications spill, I feel the pressing pain of uncertainty.
Is God looking to answer the deep cry of hearts in this troubling landscape?
We are the Easter-believing mothers. We know the hidden treasures of this call—to pray, fast, rest, and give alms in our domestic church. We know his name—Emmanuel, God-with-us. The truth of this powerful love must be rooted ever-deeper in our hearts. With so many things being stripped away in our world at large during this season, the questions press in. But God never presses unless he means to give more of himself. The God of the Israelites let his people experience devastated landscapes to remind them of the intimate power of his love . . . lest they forget. He let them experience lack and weakness before rebuilding and transforming them for more wholeness and beauty. Being asked so much this Lent means God longs to rebuild and transform hearts and dreams.
At all times and in all things, there is a wide framework of his love at play—God is working in real-time. We do not have to fear, panic, or even make sense of every aspect, because there is merciful love at work that stretches beyond our finite understanding and beyond all we face today. God is ever-provident and is crafting the fullness of our narrative—a masterful plan with ultimate good and eternal salvation. Let us love our families with an even deeper fervor because we were born and RE-born to live this truth at such a time as this. Let us pour ourselves out like Christ with all we have through this unexpected call to our Lenten observances. Let us believe in the beauty that our hearts are being transformed like never before!