If there’s anyone who is not yet aware of my frustration with “bumper sticker theology” I direct you here and here. Another treacly saying that makes me cringe is “kiss it up to Jesus”. (The only exception to this annoyance was the day someone put a sarcastic sign on the beverage machine saying “no soda…kiss it up”).
This week has given me plenty to kiss up: irritations from major to minor, experiences on that border of humbling and humiliating in more than one area of my life, household and vehicular mishaps, self-directed aggravation at my inability to stop being so down-in-the-mouth, punctuated with a snow storm on what should have been a spring-like day.
Some pious folks might view my inability to “kiss it up to Jesus” as a lack of faith. In my gloomy paranoia, I assume that “those people” are out there somewhere, and I am putting them on notice. I maintain that mindlessly “offering up” our trials is the least responsible way to react to challenges (excepting, of course, dwelling on them and using them as an excuse for bad behavior. That would be even worse. But you wouldn’t do that, would you?)
As a creative and insightful teacher, God transforms events in the life of his people into lessons of wisdom. – General Directory for Catechesis
This morning I emailed my mother a missive detailing this week’s affronts to my pride and sanity. She responded with the wisdom that Moms occasionally unleash: “That sounds like a pretty good definition of Lent”.
Ah, the discipline of Lent. My draconian approach to Lent is to serve my prayer and my growth. I always hope Lent will be a time of spiritual stretching. As I’ve learned in the past when praying for humility, be careful what you wish for.
So I refuse to kiss my afflictions up to a far-off deity. Instead I take them to prayer and ask God to sit beside me while I sort through them. I could cast them aside and try to go back to life as usual, or I could find the lessons they contain.
If the inconvenience of a shower that won’t turn off can send me into hysterics, is the crisis more about lack of control than about a shower valve? If a few bits of criticism turn on the inner voice that says “you can’t do anything right” or “you were made wrong”, is the issue really my embarrassment, or my failure to recognize my self-worth and God’s role in my creation? What assumptions are smashed by disappointments? What fears are stoked and what old wounds reopened?
Flicking troubles away will not answer any of these questions. Humility comes from truly knowing ones self, warts and all, and recognizing the unassailable worth that the self still holds despite. I don’t think that self-knowledge can come from putting our aggravations out of our mind, however necessary that might be in the short term. I need to rest with them and invite God into them, to teach me the lessons that lie in wait, and to help me to grow.
[I wrote this during spare moments throughout the morning. In one of my non-spare moments, just after I realized that a key component of this reflection was to be humility, I caught the leg of my pants on the doorstop and fell all the way to the floor in front of a room full of people. Be careful what you wish for, indeed.]