13 years ago today: Lindsay is in 7th grade, and a lot of her classmates are late to school. When they finally arrive, they've all got gray crosses on their foreheads. (A stark contrast to the colorful mardi gras outfits many of the girls had worn the day before.)
"Why are they late? Why do they have crosses on their foreheads?" All of us non-Catholic kids wonder. We don't remember this happening last year, or the year before? I mean, a lot of these kids I'd been in school with since I was 5 years old. What's going on?
"It's Ash Wednesday." We're 12 years old (some of us are 13 already), so we're old enough to understand religious differences and remember that the Catholic kids had all started going through their confirmation classes this year.
So, ash crosses on foreheads, that was new to me. But, the beginning of lent wasn't. Lent I understood.
My parents grew up in South Texas where the majority of their friends were Catholic. They went to mass with their friends all the time. Pretty much every year that I can remember growing up, my dad would give up something for lent to remind him of the sacrifice Christ made for him on the cross. My dad understood lent from a Catholic's point of view (because he went to mass with his Catholic friends) and a straight-up Christ-follower point of view (because he was/is a straight-up Christ-follower).
Fast-forward 13 years minus one day...
To most readers this isn't much. It appears to be a last minute thought. But, dig in, because there's so much more there.
What we have in this text message is a daughter praying about a decision to step into a period of 40 days without.
The same kind of decision her dad made almost every year while she grew up. A decision birthed out of a desire to grow closer to his Maker. A decision not to partake in a ritual but a self-imposed, daily reminder. A decision that wasn't based on others expectations. A decision that was intimate and personal, just between him and God and just about him and God. A decision he made without the expectation that his children would do likewise.
Even though lent was personal for my dad, the actions that resulted (the going without), did not go unnoticed to his children. I mean, Dad not watching TV, eating sugar, or drinking coffee? Those are things you couldn't not notice! And it served as an example to us, not for what lent looks like, but that there was something important enough to dad to make him choose to go without those things.
So, this year, we see in the above text message, that even though she no longer lives under his roof, but hundreds of miles away, and no longer goes by his name, his daughter is praying about her decision to go without for 40 days. Why? Because she saw her dad do it. And it was his actions, not his words on the subject (because there were few) that impressed upon her the notion that a decision to go without with the intention of growing closer to her Maker would not be in vain.
So, in this humbling moment, I realize how powerful our actions are, and I'm filled with gratitude to have a straight-up Christ-following dad who made a decision every year to go without for 40 days.
Love you, Padre. XoXo
Love you, Padre. XoXo