Sitting not far off, I watched my two year old daughter attempt to climb onto mommy and daddy’s bed. It was sweet, as you can very well imagine.
Unable to lift one leg high enough to get onto the mattress, she resorted to pulling and grabbing at whatever she could. First she grabbed the blanket, but that soon gave way. Then she grabbed hard at the pillow, but it quickly came right down on top of her. Finally, she attempted to use a little stuffed animal that had made its way to my bed—don’t laugh, it isn’t mine—only to realize that this too was hardly beneficial to her cause.
“Abigail,” I said to her, “where are you going? That’s daddy’s bed.”
She understood me well. Crossing her arms and furrowing her brow, Abigail’s answer came even before she spoke. “No, no, no,” she said, as she waved her little finger at me. “Dat’s my bed.”
Now, I know it may seem unrelated but I assure you THAT is precisely the attitude we all need as we enter into Lent.
Indulge me a minute.
When we lose our grip on the penance, or the pillow comes crashing down on our heads, we wrongly believe that our ability to climb to the heights of God’s dream for us has come crashing down as well.
You have no doubt already attempted to grab onto something, some penance, some form or style of prayers, some routine. And you chose this particular piety because you believe that if you can grip it, I mean really hold on to it with all your strength, you just might be able to pull yourself up to the person you want to be. And of course, you are correct.
But here is the problem.
When we lose our grip on the penance, or the pillow comes crashing down on our heads, we wrongly believe that our ability to climb to the heights of God’s dream for us has come crashing down as well. And I have to admit, I have seen this. Not only that, I have done this.
If I fail at my Lenten observance enough then I just might give up on the whole enterprise. “Next Lent will be better,” I have said to myself on too many occasions. But Abigail doesn’t think that way.
For a child, her place on the bed is not dependent on her ability to hold on. She is not trying to prove to herself that she belongs there. She knows she does; after all, it is her bed. We need to begin thinking the same way.
Lent is not about proving to yourself that you belong to this God, or that you can be better than you have been in the past. You already are set apart for the Lord. So hold on to your penances and practices; indeed, get stronger by the effort.
But in the world of faith, the act of climbing doesn’t make you a rock climber. Knowing that you belong on top of the mountain does.