I never feel really prepared for Lent -- it's always all I can handle just to fast. I don't think a young mother should even think about fasting -- being a mother is enough! (One reason it's such a good idea for our priests to be married -- it's harder for them to get on their high horses about The Church Says when they can see how their own wives have to struggle with the chores of womanhood -- like bearing, feeding, and caring for children.) Reminds me of a comment I read somewhere else, from a young mother who worried that she wasn't able to focus on the Liturgy because her children took all her attention -- she was told by her Bishop, "Your children are your Liturgy. Bring them to church, help them to learn how to behave in church -- that is your prayer." Wow.
Meanwhile, with a skill and elan that only I possess, I have managed to anger two people I really care about, right at the beginning of Great Lent. I don't know how I do this, but I've done it pretty nearly all my life -- caring about people, in trying to express that, I manage to tick them off no end. As of yesterday, I was just about ready to give up trying, just crawl into a corner and not contact anybody or do anything that wasn't strictly necessary for the upkeep of the house. And then, in Touching Heaven, I read this:
An encounter with [a staretz, an elder] may reveal a clear and brilliantly lit path, the very one you have been patiently seeking. Or, it may not. The gift one gets may simply be permission to go on struggling. We seek guidance, and sometimes receive; we seek relief, and sometimes receive only the encouragement to keep fighting the good fight....Occasionally it feels as though the world has an overwhelming power to crush us; that is, if our human nature doesn't finish us off first. But there is absolutely no sound promise offered from the circles of holiness that life is free from struggle. To struggle is to engage, and to engage the spiritual life is one of the few worthy pursuits of man.
Or, as we used to say in my youth, no rest for the wicked. Not struggling is not an option, in this calling. Dang.