Oldest Dumpling and I decluttered and reorganized the junk drawer.
We’re going camping! With the brutal weather we’ve been having, and with how far along we are in schooling as a result, we skipped formal lessons yesterday and started planning our spring camping trip. This will be our third year doing a girls-only road trip, and each year we get a little more ambitious. The first year, we did a little study of the Appalachian Trail and stayed one night at the Harper’s Ferry Youth Hostel. Last year we did two nights at a rustic cabin with our rat terrier, whom we discovered is so territory-attached that he makes a very poor camp dog indeed.
This year we are working up an itinerary to do a tour of the first Catholic settlement areas in our state. We are using The Catholic Community of Pennsylvania: Past and Present as our guide. Having this trip to look forward to seems to have brightened our spirits around here. I aim to include at least one girls-only roughing-it (as much as we can) trip each year to help our daughters build the kind of resilience and resourcefulness Mary and Elizabeth, the First Disciples, had.
I’ve not been an utter failure at Lent, because temptation is stupid.
The first good choice I made was to set tough but not ridiculous goals that gradually increase in difficulty throughout the weeks. But the biggest help I’ve gotten from the Holy Spirit was the realization that I actually do have willpower and the desire to do God’s will. See, I’d convinced myself that I never resist temptation, so no wonder I’m such a failure at growing in virtue–especially in outgrowing certain vices. Then, one day in the checkout lane at the grocery store, I had the temptation to slip a candy bar into my purse.
Are you kidding me? I thought. That’s a stupid idea. A grown woman with kids, shoplifting? That’s ridiculous.
I turned my back on the candy display, paid my bill, and went home, not giving that temptation a second thought. On the way home, however, I gave my post-temptation thoughts some of my time. I realized it was no trouble at all to resist the temptation to shoplift, because, come on, That’s a stupid idea. The temptation fled because my next thought was an exact reason why that particular temptation was so stupid.
What if I told all my temptations that they’re stupid ideas? The more I thought about it, the more I noticed that agreeing with temptation is the very path away from virtue and towards sin. After all, take a look at Eve in Eden. In Genesis 3: 6, we see, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom.” Sounds great, right? By golly, that temptation sure has some good ideas!
Once I think a sin is a really good idea, I’m likely to do it. This might be why I have no trouble, say, resisting the urge to scream at strangers who annoy me, but keeping my temper with my kids who do need my correction (“Yelling like this is a good idea, because correcting them is my job, and yelling will make me feel better, and feeling better makes me a better parent, right? Right? Right?“) is so much harder than leaving the Hershey bar behind at the checkout.
So this Lent I’ve been aiming to tell my temptations that they’re stupid. It’s a little bit of Method Acting, really, using emotional memory to recall times when my character did the right thing and applying that memory to the present challenge. It’s helping, I think. Don’t get me wrong: I still fail a great deal, especially at my favorite sins. The biggest hurdle is the first one: to realize that my brain is saying stupid things. However, since I’ve started this Method Resisting, let’s call it, instead of seeing my path to virtue as this long, grueling, Ignatian marathon that I could never possibly finish, each battle just looks like just that–a battle, and one with the grace of God I might actually win.
I hesitated there. I didn’t want to type anything about me winning anything. On the one hand, yeah, I really want to be humble. When you wear your addiction on your body like I do, it’s a bit easier to keep the pride down. But on the other hand, whenever one of us chooses Christ over ourselves, we become more integrated into His Body. That’s win-win. There’s gotta be something good about claiming that.
I almost forgot! I’ll be giving a talk this Saturday to the he Central Jersey Chapter of The Catholic Writer’s Guild. This talk will be held on Saturday, March 7th at 10 am at the parish center of St. Aloysius parish, on Bennett’s Mill Rd. in Jackson NJ. I’ll be speaking about -“A Fiction Ministry: Using Stories in the New Evangelization”
No registration is required and all are welcome. For information contact Karen Kelly Boyce at 732-928-7981. Thanks for hosting me, Karen!