Lent. It’s not just for the Catholics, it’s not just a period on the calendar, and it’s more than sacrificing chocolate or soda. The goal, as John Wesley would say, is to reclaim the one thing needful–becoming Christ-like.
We are in the second full week of Lent and I’ve started to question if I had given up something worthy of the season, something that truly keeps me from God. Last year, 2013, I gave up worry and anxiety. When asked how that even makes sense at the time, I said I didn’t know. I would pray sometimes in the morning, sometimes during the day, and sometimes at night to God to help me surrender my worries. I named the ones I could muster. Then I took a trip, first on the plane and then by car. A friend from my college years had passed. I joined my college friends to show our support to the family. Around the same time my younger brother asked if he could stay with me for his college spring break. I happily said yes and at my expense.
He came to pick me up in his car from the memorial service. We stopped for gas an hour later in a town located right before a two zero gas stations toll road, Joplin. It’s simple, we fuel up the car and turn on the engine. It made some weird sound, he shifts gears to drive, nothing happens, and he starts to panic. So we turn off the car then try again. None of the gears works except neutral. After several repeated tries with some time in between he does what most of us would do…curse at the car and worry. I start to become worried too but then remember it’s what I gave up for Lent. Our family always has AAA, so I ask him if he is still on the Parent’s AAA account for dependents. Yes he is. So we call for a tow. I call my manager to let him know I will not make it into work the next day because of our road trip. He said to arrive safely and to return the following day. I call my friends in the Springfield looking for a place to stay. “We would have been hurt if you didn’t think to call us, of course you guys can stay.” That generous response was just perfect.
The next day the couple loans us one of their cars for getting around. In we early afternoon we get the call from the shop about my younger brother’s car…$3,000. Over lunch at the moment I admit to him that I have been saving up for occasions like these for him and my twin. I call it “the fuck up fund.” Unfortunately this was my first year to save for it, and I only had half the money to happily give to fix this situation and move on. Time to be worried again…what to do. Okay I gave up worry for Lent and it’s still Lent. So I talk to him about his options and mine, fly or drive, fix or leave the car stranded at the shop, spring break with me or at grandma’s? Ultimately I have to return to work the next day so we dropped off our friends car, rented one for the 3.5 hour drive back to grandma’s in St. Louis, and he books a plane flight for my trip back to Dallas.
It was a small case of struggle and worry and practicing my Lenten promise, but I would remember it later as major events after Lent would occur. Was this a test or mere reality of how my brother didn’t keep his car in normal working condition? I do not know but regardless we know that “shit happens,” and what matters more is our response. In this case it was not dwelling in worry, anxiety, or fear but finding practical solutions and moving forward. These past struggles, no matter how minor, become building blocks for overcoming adversity, both internal and external, and preparing us for much bigger challenges.
Help us to surrender that which keeps us from you and not to take it back. In your mercy Lord, hear our prayer.