When my husband, Mark, and I found out we were expecting our fourth child, we immediately started taking stock of all the things we would need for another baby. We started unpacking boxes of baby clothes that were stored away after our other children had outgrown them, and made a list of things we had to buy—bottles, new car seats, a bouncer, diapers. The list went on and on. We also made plans for how we would have to rearrange our home to accommodate our new family member.
Mark and I spent a good deal of time assessing the physical needs of our child, but, unfortunately, not as much on the less tangible aspects of expecting another child. When we finally did, however, we began to realize that in the grand scheme of things, whether we found time to buy a new bouncer didn’t really matter all that much. What mattered was that we were once again going to be bringing a new life into this world.
At first it was a bit overwhelming to think of how much our lives were going to change. But then we realized that this provided us with a good opportunity to stop and assess where we were in our lives and what this new addition meant for our family.
The fact that we were doing all this reflecting at the same time the Church was celebrating the season of Lent was certainly not lost on us, and especially not on me. Lent, in and of itself, is a time of preparation. The 40 days lead us up to and prepare us for the challenges and triumphs of Holy Week and Easter. Lent also offers the perfect time for Catholics to slow down and assess their lives, both literally and spiritually.
On a very personal level, being pregnant during Lent is providing me with a unique perspective on the season. And it has extended it well beyond the traditional 40 days for me. Not only am I going to spend 40 days reflecting on where I am in my life and preparing for the birth of my child, but I am also going to spend 40 weeks doing it. As Jesus spent 40 days in the desert praying and reflecting, I will do so throughout my pregnancy.
I am also provided with a wonderful reminder that the Lenten season is not just about giving something up. It’s about offering ourselves up for the good of others.
When I was growing up, Lent for me usually meant giving up whatever candy bar I happened to like at the time. Then as I got a bit older, I started thinking in terms of being more proactive on behalf of others as my Lenten offering. For instance, perhaps each day I would offer someone a compliment or do a good deed for someone.
Change in Perspective
This change from looking inward to looking toward others can be best summed up by the Greek word metanoia. In Lenten Lunches: Reflections on the Weekday Readings for Lent and Easter Week, retired Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarcyzk explains it this way: “The word metanoia connotes a change of mind and heart, altering one’s mind-set toward whole new ways of thinking and acting. This involves taking a look at where we are and trying to see where we ought to be. It involves testing our values and discerning how they stack up against the values that Jesus offers his followers.”
This concept has become vividly clear to me as I watch my stomach grow and feel my child move within me. Each day, each meal, each action is dedicated to the greater good of this child within me, my constant companion on this 40-week Lenten journey.