February 22, 2021 by eneubauer
I have always loved art and architecture. Combine this with my wife’s love for all things English and we have a habit of watching renovation shows featuring beautiful English country homes. The show always begins with a shot of the beautiful exterior and grounds. It’s easy to picture your entire family frolicking in the gardens and throughout the grounds. Then, fifteen minutes into the show and you realize just how much work actually needs to be done.
During Lent, the Exodus 40 program asks you to set time aside to do a nightly examen, which is defined as
“a review of our actions throughout the day, acknowledge where we responded to God’s grace, and where we chose to do otherwise.”
This week as I was practicing this spiritual exercise, I closed my eyes and asked God to show me a picture of my spiritual life – a picture that would help me understand where I was at so that I could navigate where I needed to go and do what needed to be done. The picture I got was of a beautiful country home. At first glance, the house looked perfect, historic, on a strong foundation, surrounded by beautiful walls and grounds. However, as I approached I could see cracks in the walls. The more I looked around and examined the exterior the more I noticed the need for significant repairs. When I opened my eyes I immediately grabbed my journal, wrote this picture down in my own words, and begin to ask God what it meant.
See, I have been following Jesus since I was 20 years old. I had a radical conversion experience that literally changed the direction of my life. Jesus poured the foundation of my (spiritual) house 28 years ago and began the work of building a home He could dwell in. Of course, I fully participated in the development, building, and interior finishes of this house, and over time it became a place that Jesus could dwell in. I was at peace and excited about living as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Over time my house got used and used well as any house does. As time passed, and it passed quickly, issues developed with the exterior and interior features of this house. Some of these “issues” in need of attention and/or repair I saw and took immediate action to remedy. I saw other issues that needed attention but procrastinated on doing what needed to be done. Finally, some issues got ignored completely hoping they would just go away. If you are a homeowner you understand what I am talking about.
I share this with you because I realized, after a difficult 2019-20, that I needed Lent more than ever. I realized that there were many “spiritual disciplines” that I had tried to practice over the past several Lent’s that began well but faded quickly until I was barely doing the minimum just to stay “spiritually afloat.” I realized that my cracked walls didn’t happen suddenly or because of some catastrophic event but slowly, over time. Also, because I decided to address only that which was most glaring and ignored the many other, smaller issues God was revealing as “in need of repair and attention,” my Lenten experiences were much less transformative than I expected. These experiences led me to realize that I couldn’t enter this Lent on my own, nor could I choose what to give up and what to keep. I decided I needed help, help from the Exodus 40 community and brothers who would commit to walk with me on this road of redemption, help me see my weakness, and commit to assist me in the much-needed repair work of my soul.
My desire this Lent is to “repair my house.” To admit my need, take action on what God (through Holy Scripture, prayer, my brothers, priests, & spiritual director) reveals and get the hard work done of cleaning things up, getting things right – as they should be! Saying goodbye to distractions, committing each and every day to work the spiritual disciplines outlined in the Exodus 40 plan, fasting, and giving alms. I am committed. Not wavering. While at a Catholic men’s conference last Saturday, our Bishop reminded us that Lent is only 40 days – it isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things. I thought to myself, how true that is. How often have I mentally quit the moment I thought/felt it was “getting tough.” How many times did I say, “I can’t keep this up for 40 days?” I felt spiritually weak and frail. What I recognize now, is when the going got tough during Lent and the devil was working in the midst of my self-doubt, discouragement, feelings of defeat, and delay, I decided to give up, to put the tough stuff off until a later date. I would even say to myself, “Oh, I can do this another time.” That was a bunch of crap and I bought into it hook, line and sinker.
The Church is right. Lent is our time to journey with Jesus through our desert for 40 days. The Israelites did it for 40 years in the desert. Jesus did it – 40 days in the desert. I can do it for 40 days in 2021 for the sake of my own salvation, for the health of my family, and for the sake of the community. When you look at my house, I want you to see something beautiful. When you get closer, I want you to notice that the repair work has been done. I look forward to showing you around after Easter.