Recently, when I was asked by someone if I was ready for Lent, I excitedly shared that I definitely was! I went on to happily list all the ways that my family and I would spend our time in the desert and even included how we were looking forward to our parish’s fish dinners and subsequent Stations of the Cross. Yes, this year Lent was definitely shaping up to be a good season of reflection and the joyful hope that comes with awaiting Easter. I was ready, or at least I thought I was.
Not even twenty-four hours after sharing my plans for Lent, I received news that someone I knew and admired in high school had tragically died, leaving behind four young children, a wife, and countless friends who loved him. Even though I did not know him outside of our school day, band practices, and FFA meetings, his death hit me hard. Why would God take away such a good man? How could God do this to his family during the best days of their lives? I felt like I had been cast into the desert.
How many times have you entered the desert unwillingly or not knowing why you were brought there? Perhaps it was a miscarriage, the death of a child, a spouse, a parent, or even the loss of a job, a hardened marriage, a serious medical issue, or any other unexpected hardship you had to face as a wife or mother that brought you to that desert. Were you confused? Sad? Angry? Did you question God? I know that in these early days of Lent I certainly have. But as I wander the desert, I know one thing to be true—I do not wander alone. Christ is with me. He has been there and knows my pain. No matter how hard it is to be in the desert during Lent and during other times of our lives, the joyful hope that we will one day be in paradise with him remains because he has conquered death and will bring us home.
Wandering in the desert as a mom is not easy, because we spend our days trying to be sensitive to the needs and emotions of others. When those around us feel pain, we feel pain. There will be times that we will be called into the desert when we don’t want to go or we least expect it. Our spouses and children, friends and family will journey through the desert, too. And just as Christ is here for us, we need to be there for those others, ready to help carry them through their battles with sin and sorrow—ready to point the way toward Jesus and his cross. As Cardinal John Henry Newman shares, “We all suffer for each other and gain by each other’s suffering, for man never stands alone here.” We are in the desert. Let us use this time to turn away from darkness, repent, and arise from our spiritual slumber. The time is now whether we are ready or not.