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Are We There Yet? Life as Lenten Journey
By
Kathryn Begnaud
Source: Every Day Catholic
Published: Monday, February 27, 2012
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Pilgrims process through the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
We’ve taken umpteen road trips with our five boys when they were young. The question most heard on those trips is the title of this article. Close in age (all born within a seven-year span), our sons were extremely noisy, occasionally obnoxious and easily bored. They just wanted to get there.

That’s the sentiment that best describes my attitude toward Lent; my eagerness to jump ahead to Holy Week often results in wearing blinders for six weeks as my eyes search constantly over the next hill for Jerusalem and my ears  are attuned more for Alleluias than Kyries. I am resistant to the wearing of purple, and I often want to eat dessert first.

When I hear the opening words from the 21st chapter of the Gospel of Matthew on Palm Sunday, about Jesus and his disciples approaching Jerusalem, I am struck by the idea of “drawing near” and am reminded that the richness of our lives is gleaned more from the journeys than from any actual outcomes. Process over product. Spiritually, this ought to come as good news for all of us.

Generally, I love road trips, though my expectations are always unrealistic. When the children were young, their father and I enjoyed the scattered conversations, arguments and joking that went on inside our van. We all sang along with the three audiocassettes we owned (Paul Simon, Chuck Berry and Bruce Springsteen), pointed out new sights and consumed mountains of junk food.

We fantasized aloud about what we might find at our destination, and, deep in our hearts, we considered how wonderful our lives would be once we finally arrived. Real joy was always just ahead and over the next hill, never in the immediate moment.

On the Road
I like to imagine Jesus and his followers as they drew nearer to Jerusalem—taking turns walking next to him, getting better acquainted with one another, reminiscing and sharing food. I suspect that, as they lifted their eyes when crossing each hilltop, some raised their hands and pointed to the horizon: “I see our destiny! I see Jerusalem!”

As they neared the city, they were undoubtedly filled with anticipation. Was there also foreboding? Hadn’t the mission also grown in clarity? Were they tempted to settle on a lesser village, an alternate destination? Did they ask, plaintively, “Are we there yet?” When some complained of exhaustion, did Our Lord place his hand upon their backs and whisper, “I will give you rest. Trust me. I have called you and I love you”?

I heard those very words whispered to my battered soul when I first “visited” Jerusalem—a trip taken to deal with my father’s alcoholism, but one that, instead, taught me that all of life is Lenten. For many months I prepared for the “journey” by planning a family intervention. I drew near through prayer, by reading anything I could find on alcoholism and by talking with experts (whom I believed knew the only fail-proof route).

I fantasized that my experience would mirror the success of others. Ah, but there’s the rub! Expecting to encounter God precisely how others have is a trap. We must each walk the journey with our own feet.

Haven’t there been times in our lives that we’ve listened so intently to others’ experiences of God that we’ve become disappointed in our own? Have we allowed the joy-filled stories of others to become a condition by which we measure the validity of God’s presence? Though we are communal, we also walk individually with Jesus. While side by side, we are all still approaching, still drawing near.

Broken and Mended
My own family intervention was a disaster, in part, because I had so closely studied others’ tales of Jerusalem that, confident of the route, I raced ahead of Jesus. My family hadn’t the chance yet to draw near. They hadn’t even known there was a map. They were being yanked through the city gates, and I was doing the yanking, not God.

At the time, I turned to Jesus and said, “If I’d known it would be this painful, I wouldn’t have followed you here.” Many times I wanted to turn back, but I couldn’t remember the return path. I couldn’t un-see what I had seen. I couldn’t unlearn new wisdom.

Exhausted, I decided to start over and, instead of hurling blame on my poor father, I began loving him. Pure love: nothing more, nothing less. In short, I followed Jesus. I secretly reasoned that things couldn’t get much worse anyway, and, even with that attitude, the Lord still took me along.

Drawing Near
It’s been nearly 30 years since my first true Lenten experience, and today my family is healthy and whole. My father, whose sobriety is regarded as a gift, has become our spiritual leader.

Drawing near to Lent is always a journey of truth, and the truth is always about us. It’s not only the most grueling journey of our lifetimes, but also the most exhilarating. My only advice is to enter in. Draw near. God is calling.

My husband and I still take road trips and still play Paul Simon’s Graceland (we’ve graduated to MP3) because the music rewards us with swells of memory. Like Lent, honoring our traditions
reminds us of earlier journeys, those of both suffering and joy.

I long to rewind the clock, to travel again with my children when they were young. I would answer differently when they ask, “Are we there yet?” I would now say, “We are drawing near.” They wouldn’t know what to make of that. It’s always wise to throw kids a curveball. Keeps them on their toes.


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