We're almost there...Holy Week. The transition from Lent into Easter.
If Easter is about bringing new life into the world, then it is a kind of birth. It is the Birth. And any woman who has been in labor knows that the end is the hardest. It's when things get real and it's when women panic or begin saying things like, "I can't do this anymore." It's when many women who were set on a natural birth begin to waver or give up all together. The avowed atheist begins to call out God's name and the most anti-medical asks for medicine. It's the point that every birth educator, midwife, and doula looks for, recognizes immediately, and tries to prep mom for before she's there to help her better understand and recognize it when it comes.
Easter is a birth and it's about to get harder.
In so many ways it will be more beautiful, too. But it will be more raw, more vulnerable, and demand more of us than Lent has up to this point. And it might not feel all that beautiful while we're in it. There will be long liturgies with squirmy (and maybe naughty) children. There will be more tests of our patience. There will be more temptations to give up in despair. The evil one will surely be active with his whispers of defeat. There will be more interior pressure to run to the nearest distraction or earthly comfort. The demands will seem like too much and we will doubt that any of it is worth it. The abundance of grace in the week will be overshadowed by just how hard it all feels in the moment. Sometimes the best line of defense is just recognizing the reality before it hits.
And, if I may, I'm putting on my Lenten doula hat:
You can do this.
It will be worth it.
This is normal.
I know it hurts.
Easter is coming and it is so close.
Trust that He knows just what He's doing.
One moment at a time.
All those reasons you wanted to make this a great Lent? They're still there. Even if we begin to be blinded to them in the moment when things get hardest.
I think, sometimes, we are so quick to want to fix something that makes us uncomfortable. When we see someone choosing something difficult, we want to tell them they don't need to do that. When we see someone in pain, we naturally want to make it better. The first birth I attended as a doula I was surprised at how hard it is to see someone in pain, especially since there was a way out. Especially since I had done it before myself several times. And yet on the outside, it was still disconcerting to just BE with someone in their pain and support them in that choice. We so often do this in the spiritual life, too, don't we? It's uncomfortable for us to watch someone pick up a cross. It's especially hard to not want to give them reasons to put it down or to see them choosing disciplines that are not obligatory but that they've discerned would be good for them and not want to talk them out of it.
But perhaps as true brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to encourage one another to keep going. We need to tell them that it will be worth it and do what we can to help them work through their transition. Perhaps in order to reach Easter with the fullest of graces and to experience that post-birth surge of divine life in our souls, we need to prep ourselves for the hardest part. We need to surround ourselves with people who truly support us and find the interior motivation (always through His grace) to get us to the end.
Perhaps we can look to the One who did it all first and ponder how much He must have wanted to give up. How in the moments of agony up Calvary, there must have been points where it seemed dark and the pain just too much. How at any point He could have stopped and chosen to give up. Perhaps He can be, and longs to be, the One to get us through the transition.
You can do this and better yet, He's right here next to you doing it with you.
A blessed and beautiful Birth awaits.