Anxiety, Butterflies, and Lent – What’s the Relation?
In our lives, there can come moments in which we feel estranged from God. In this respect, God’s non-presence can take on several forms.
- Maybe we have not discovered God yet, and so God feels foreign to us.
- Maybe we have discovered God but all suddenly don’t feel his presence as strongly.
- Or maybe we are living a kind of life that rejects God.
These are all, in different ways, forms of exile.
And yet, amidst these forms of estrangement, we are encouraged to not lose heart and to, against all odds, keep trusting in God’s love and faithfulness! Sometimes, undoubtedly, this is not that easy for us to do.
The question is, how can Lent help us do this?
Lent Inspires us to Prepare the Way for the Lord (to open our Selves to God).
This idea of preparing the way for the Lord might sound daunting. How much effort do I have to make? Is it all up to me?
The good news is that, with God things never depend only on us. He is always the one to take the first step! God is already inviting you into deeper friendship with him – we simply need to try to reciprocate in the ways that we can. Thus, for example:
If we don’t know God personally yet, we can try to search more genuinely and with a more open heart (i.e. here it’s important to let our natural questions guide, so that our search and finding will actually be authentic).
If we’ve known God but are not feeling him much at the moment, we can try to remind ourselves of His faithfulness and love – asking him to help us be faithful even during the dark times.
If we are living a life that is rejecting Him, we can try to ask him to help us grow in love and in self-discipline, while engaging in acts of charity and fasting!
Sometimes, all it takes to “prepare the way” is to give God “permission” to work in us. God will not impose himself, so we need to show Him that we want to be transformed. The slightest effort on our part can bear much fruit!
In this light, it is good to note that many the changes that we are called to make are in the spiritual life. The focus should be on all those problems in our life that need to be straightened out. Our distraction – our tendency to heal our anxiety with superficial things – our failure to go out of our way to help others – our propensity to waste time, the list goes on.
Ultimately, this growth is a journey; a journey that cannot take place without hope.
Lent renews our Hope, inviting us to reflect upon what our Hope is rooted in.
In waiting for the Lord to be reborn in us at Easter, we long for the fulfilment of a promise by faith. This is a longing that is characterized by confident expectation. Here, our longing is ‘active’ because of our hope. The Prophet Isiah writes how those who hope in the Lord soar like eagles… they walk without tiring. Is this how we often feel?
The question is, in our life, what are we primarily rooting our hope in?
Naturally, in our life we trust and wait on many things! We wait for job interviews, for new album releases, for exam results, for the night to pass…. Our life is in part a life of waiting. But it isn’t and shouldn’t be a life of passive waiting – or of only waiting for things that will fulfil us only for a short time. We’re not made for short-term fulfilment!
In one of his novels, the Polish novelist Joseph Conrad contrasts the human being to a butterfly Whereas a butterfly, at some point or another, successfully finds the branch or rock to rest upon; the human being never stays still for a long period of time. We are restless, always searching, always desiring new and more of things. We never stop and say, “there’s nothing else I want!”. Joy is different from hunger, which we can satisfy at some point – it seems infinite.
Amidst all this, how can we better understand all this anxiety that always pushes us to search and want more?
Our anxiety is not something we should get rid of; rather, it is something we need to interpret and understand. Anxiety is a sign – showing us that we need to always strive for a better life – for a fuller life.
In one of her reflections, St Theresa of Avila compares the human soul to a “castle” that has many rooms and many stories. The deeper we travel inside, the closer we get to God. The last room is God’s room in us. In it, our self and God meet! But in order to travel deeper, in order to get to this last room, our paths need to be all clear. This is what lies at the heart of Lent! The task of making ourselves clearer to discover who we are and to, in turn, discover Jesus within!
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