March 16, 2023

The Roof is Leaking

On Shrove Tuesday evening, I carefully laid out my plans for Lent. Additional devotions, readings, and journaling each day, Sunday Mass and Rosary, increased giving to our local food bank. It was going to be a “perfect” Lent, beginning with a 7 AM Eucharist on Ash Wednesday.

My dog awakened me at 4 AM the next morning. He was unsettled because of a thunderstorm, and I couldn’t figure out why. He’d slept through plenty of them before without stirring. I finally gave up on the idea of going back to sleep and wandered into the kitchen to make coffee when I discovered why the pup was trying to pry me from my warm bed: I felt water dripping on my head. The roof was leaking.

My first thought: my plans for a “perfect” Lent are ruined!

I stayed with that thought for a moment, and asked myself why it was important that my Lenten practices be perfect. The answer was unsettling. I was still associating smooth sailing – perfection if you will – with goodness and favor.

If things are going according to plan, then I’ve found favor with God. If they’re not, it’s because of some fault of my own and I’m being punished. It’s bad theology, and for the most part something I’ve left behind, but there are most definitely remnants of it that show up when I least expect it.

In that unscripted, unplanned meditation in my wet kitchen, it occurred to me that what was happening and the imperfectness of it all was teaching me far more about myself and my spiritual life than if everything was running smoothly. Because life is imperfect. Good people suffer and die. Those who I see as “bad people” sometimes win. Things don’t always go to plan.

None of it means we’ve either found or lost favor with God. It simply means we’re experiencing life as it is and as it is not. I thought about what actions I could take that would be consistent with the beginning of Lent. I called a carpenter and asked him to come take a look at the roof and compensated him generously for his time. I comforted the dog and thanked him for waking me. I cleaned up the kitchen. The early service was over by this time, so I rearranged my schedule to attend church later that day. I put on some peaceful music and said my prayers. I donated to the food bank online. I gave thanks that I had a home and the resources to repair it.

As lay leaders, we’re often called to step into the storm, into the chaos. It’s easy to think that something is wrong in those circumstances, but it may be far more valuable to our parishioners to view chaos as an opportunity to harness energy. To create something new and different. To demonstrate that no matter the situation, if our identity is grounded in God, and if we allow him to animate our being, then his grace will prove to be sufficient for all our needs.

I’m certain that this Lent will not be perfect, as I had hoped on Shrove Tuesday. But what I do know is that it will be filled with grace, that it will make me a better leader, and that my Easter celebration will be even more meaningful because of the imperfections.