A year ago this past weekend, my dryer caught on fire.
To clarify from the start, everything turned out fine, everybody. We were home, and apparently all of the firemen in the city were bored so they all came to the rescue, and the damage was mostly confined to one room of the house.
It was two days after Ash Wednesday, and I was all.about.Lent. If you’re anything like me, the beginning of the Lenten season is almost like a second chance at the new year. All of those goals I had January 1st that I’ve already pushed to the wayside – things like loving my neighbor and drawing closer to God? I get a chance to start over with renewed vigor.
So, that’s where I was that first Friday of Lent, 2016. I had picked a couple of really difficult things to give up, and added an extra discipline for good measure. I was ready to make the most of the season. Then, standing there in the front yard, wrangling my 90lb. dog, I remember thinking, “Lord… I totally take them back.” 🙂 I believe that one of God’s top qualities is a sense of humor, so I have to believe that, at 1am in my pj’s as I was cracking wise about all of the chocolate I was going to eat that Lent and all of the sacrifices I was not going to make, God was laughing heartily right alongside me.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17
In true Cari-fashion, I decided to push right through the next few weeks. I filled out forms, shopped for items that needed to be replaced, and overtook the homes of good friends, playing with their kids, using their washers and dryers for hours on end, and eating every last piece of chocolate those mom friends had hidden away.
Throughout those weeks, I continued to hear God say, “be gentle…”
And, confused, I would reply, “But, Lord, I am. Didn’t you see how patient I was today?”
“But, Lord, I am. Didn’t you see how I was selfless I was today?”
It wasn’t until that Easter season came around and I slowed a bit that I finally heard the rest of what God was saying: “Be gentle… with yourself.”
I had pushed through those few weeks, being legalistic in my prayer time and in how kindly I treated others that I missed some of the moments that God just wanted me for Himself.
I still haven’t fully learned this lesson of being as gentle with myself as God wants me to be, but one of the things I have learned is that God cares less about all of the chocolate or the occasional cuss word that we might sacrifice, and more about our ability to trust Him enough to share a good laugh in the middle of the chaos of our lives – even in the middle of a house fire. St. Laurence, the lessons we have to learn from you.
As He says, “be gentle with yourself,” I now ask myself “Lord, what I am holding on to that you want me to let go of so you can give me something better? What relationship do I need to let go of so that you can work in that person’s life so much better than I ever could? What areas can I be more gentle with myself in so that you can bring clarity and healing?”
As we head into these next few weeks of sacrifice, let’s also remember to open our hands a bit more – to let go of what we’re holding on to and let God pour some healing balm out on us.
Reflection question: What is one area of my life that I can give God a little more control of so that He can show me His love and joy more fully? What is one specific way I can do this?