Over the past couple of years, I've noticed my spiritual life follows a predictable pattern throughout the liturgical year: consolation, lukewarmness, then thirst. Lent is a time filled with consolation as I intentionally prioritize prayer. I’m drawn closer to Him, and He reminds me of who He is: the merciful and convicting Lord who came not to condemn but to save. While Lent is a fruitful and blessed time, I often find myself spiritually burnt out by the end of it. As I enter the seasons of Easter and then Ordinary time, I develop the attitude that I’m spiritually off the hook. I begin to give myself permission to skip prayer, rationalizing that I don’t need to be as “holy” as I was in Lent. As my mindset shifts in Ordinary time, I find myself with a lukewarm heart, indifferent or even hostile to prayer. Advent and Christmas hurry by amidst the busyness of the holidays, and I enter Ordinary time again in the New year thirsty for, yet resistant to, the upcoming Lent.
Reflecting on this pattern, I realize that not every season is supposed to be Lent or Easter or Ordinary time. Rather, each Liturgical season offers its own unique gifts and temptations.
For example, I feel more intense intimacy with Jesus in Lent, but I also find myself tempted to self-righteous and judgmental thoughts, assuming that I’m “winning” the spiritual competition (whatever that is) because I’m praying more. In Ordinary time, the temptations are more immediately obvious than the gifts, for I find myself especially tempted to spiritual mediocrity in this season. While this temptation is partly rooted in my own laziness, it also arises from two opposing lies which the Enemy loves to use to keep me from the Lord.
On the one hand, I believe the lie that I’m self-sufficient and don’t really need God to go about my day. On the other hand, and more insidious in my experience, I believe the lie that God is a cruel taskmaster, waiting for me to fail. Why would I want to spend time with a critical God whose lofty expectations I keep failing to meet, especially since I’ve left the “holy” version of me in Lent? Thus, I find myself stuck in a cycle: I resist His presence, and the more I stay away from Him, the less I know who He really is.
However, instead of beating up lukewarm-Ordinary-time Eva, the Lord invites me to see this liturgical pattern differently. He was working in my heart then just as much as in Lent. Although I felt spiritually lukewarm throughout Ordinary time, He was uprooting lies I believed about Him and reminding me that He wants me to be real and honest with Him whatever the season. Even through the tepidity of my Ordinary time, I was getting to know both the Lord’s voice and the Enemy’s lies. The more I become familiar with both, the more easily I can embrace and follow the former and reject the latter.
The truth is, the Lord is with me through every season. He loves “holy” Eva in Lent just as much as “spiritually ok” Eva in Ordinary time. He abides with us in every day of the Liturgical Year, and as we get to know our particular temptations and stumbling blocks, He delights to remind us who He is.