But I wept over it Sunday morning. It was a very late Lent for me, and yet very timely after all.
Tired, nauseous, and full of guilt for being so weak and withered in all my roles in this sickly season (we are expecting our fourth child in December), I was looking forward to taking the Lord’s Supper with my church. My pastor (and husband) always makes it so meaningful and rich, and I knew he’d be preaching out of Hebrews.
But I couldn’t make it. After vomiting and crawling miserably to bed the night before, I found myself miserable again on the morning of the Lord’s Day. I dragged myself around to get the kids ready, the communion bread baked, and then I collapsed on the couch in my robe and nausea.
Hungry for Christ, bereft of fellowship, and still guilt-laden, my eye fell on the book, Bread and Wine, readings for Lent and Easter. I fetched it from the shelf, tracked down my journal and a pen, and curled up around my roiling tummy to get some spiritual food.
The book did not disappoint. Immediately, tears began leaking down, as I read the words of repentance that my own heart needed to voice. All the beginning chapters are on repentance, suffering and being crucified with Christ.
I found myself asking God, “Why is this pregnancy so hard? I’ve done this three times before. It should be easy by now. What is wrong with me?”
Gently, He showed me it was my flesh, my self-will struggling against this intense season of sanctification. Yes, I have been pregnant and sick three other times — three other first trimesters of illness and exhaustion. But the fire is hotter now, and my deeper dross emerges with a family of five to care for and life’s responsibilities greater and heavier.
In short, I struggle to surrender my strength, my energy, my caffeine, my comfort, my wellness, and my personal choices for this new life to thrive within me. It costs more now than it did when I was first pregnant with my daughter six years ago. Selfishness doesn’t die easily or quietly or accidentally.
I considered, in light of the words I read, how Christ’s sufferings, so personal and profound and in all ways worse than mine, were done in obedience to His Father, but also to give life. And now He’s called me to similar suffering, to give life.
“The whole life of Christ was a cross. And the more spiritual progress you strive for, the heavier will your crosses become, for as your love for God increases so will the pain of your exile. . . But as long as adversity irks you, as long as you try to avoid suffering, you will be discontent and ill at ease. Realize that to know Christ you must lead a dying life. The more you die to yourself, the more you will live unto God”—Thomas a Kempis, from “Bread and Wine.”
And so I find, mercifully, a return to the cross, and a very late Lent rescued me from myself in this season, reminding me that Christianity is and always was about dying to self, being baptized in the baptism of Christ, and submitting myself to all that God has for me, grace and grief and illness, too. I repent of my self-will and surrender anew.
My wellness hasn’t changed yet, but my spirit has been baptized in understanding. And that makes all the difference.