February 5, 2008

My first Lent

Ok well technically, I suppose, my first Lent won't be until next year since I am not yet Catholic but as I think about Lent being a time of conversion it seems appropriate to call it my first. RCIA is going well, I have to admit I was initially disappointed. I think I expected a lot more hand holding and a sense of being led gently into Catholicism. Instead my RCIA classes have been more of a challenge. When I first realized I wanted to become Catholic (about a year and a half ago) I initially had an abundance of wonder and hope, doubts to be sure, but the overall feeling I had was very warm. I wasn't able to participate in RCIA at first because the parish we were attending had started their classes much earlier in the year and I would have already missed out on too much. I was disappointed but resolved to learn more and prepare myself for RCIA the following year. I didn't expect to continue to have so many issues with doubt but it seems the more I learn the more I have to take a long hard look at myself, my motivations, my beliefs (ingrained and otherwise), and my life. This kind of self examination and realization has been hard work, harder than I ever expected. I think the thing I struggle the most with is trusting God. I fall too easily back onto relying only on myself and trying to control things which no one really has control over. I then find myself extremely anxious, fearful, and sometimes depressed, even in light of my general good fortune in life. I was reading this post today and it got me thinking. I know exactly what she is talking about here, for the first time in my life I am starting to have a peek at what real joy can be. I have been happy before, don't get me wrong, but I sooner or later would have to deal with the feeling of that happiness not being quite enough, or quite right. I too assumed that I simply had a bad outlook, that, as a result of my childhood, I believed good things couldn't really happen to me out of some sort of poor self esteem issue. I always felt undeserving and apprehensive that anything good in my life was sure to be followed by something bad. I think now that it more accurate to say good things can't happen without God. Or, in other words, even our most joyful successes and achievements are meaningless without God. We are undeserving, but God still loves us and only the full acknowledgment and pursuit of that love can bring us true happiness. I struggle with myself daily in trying to let go of my habits and fears and just trust. I need to always remember that, for all my reading and rationality, faith is still a gift. It is not something I can conjure up on my own and I must continually ask and pray for this gift. I need to depend on God for my happiness and spiritual comfort. I cannot comfort myself because I cannot control every aspect of the world around me. I cannot comfort myself because I am human and weak and vulnerable to sin and anxiety. Only God is above all of this.
This Lent is going to be both extremely challenging and extremely transformative for me. I am both looking forward to it and afraid at the same time. I only hope that I can continue to grow towards God and learn to trust myself to him in every way.


Jennifer F. said...

I think you're really on the right track. I think I've commented here before that our experiences are similar (including RCIA not being ideal).

One thing to keep in mind is that soon you will have the sacraments to help you. Though it wasn't like the Holy Spirit hit me like a ton of bricks as soon as I could start going to Confession and receiving the Eucharist, they have definitely, noticeably helped me in a big way over time. I bet they will help you too, even if it's not instantaneous.

I'll keep you in my prayers!

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

You mention being afraid. I think you have nothing to fear except possibly disappointment. It's possible that Lent may not be so obviously transformative as you think.

But that, too, is part of the challenge.

God bless!