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Question for Lent: Have I Been A Good Friend to Myself?

alec vanderboom

My third child had her First Confession this Lent. Our two parish priest did such a beautiful job leading a community penance service that appeals to both second graders and their parents. For his homily, the priest lead us in a meditation on this painting by the artist Rembrandt.

For the Examination of Conscience, the Priest had us look deeply into 3 basic questions. Am I being a good friend to God? Am I being a good friend to others? Am I being a good friend to myself?

I was shocked at how badly I failed at being a good friend to myself. Lack of exercise. Perfectionism (a failure to be patient with myself). Lack of time to develop my talents and nourish friendships outside my family.

After that experience, I started paying more attention to self-care and my own nourishment. This morning I did a good job on quiet prayer. I ate a real breakfast. I gave myself extra time to do my hair, put on lipstick and change my earrings. After the good example of the nuns of St. Emma's, I focused on doing one small, achievable domestic task at a time. When my 3 year old and 4 year old started fighting at the breakfast table, I easily had mental space to help coach them through their disagreement. The three of us didn't just solve a one time problem. We affirmed a system of how to approach a breakdown in the social contract.

I turned back to doing the dishes in utter shock. It's so easy to be a good parent after I take time for myself. I go to CODA meetings every week. I hear a legacy of painful family memories passed down for generations. I wonder now if the pain of codependency is as simple as a generational legacy of a lack of self-care.

It is good to care for God. It is good to care for others. I also have a responsibility to take care of myself--especially in the cause of chronic illness (infant reflux) and chronic "there is always a needy toddler in my life".

I love Lent! I love coming home to Christ again and again. I love always finding an easier way to do his work with greater joy. St. Joseph, the worker, prayer for us!

(For my daughter's First Confession, my parish priest just held up a copy of this painting and helped us experience it deeply for a few minutes. I can't imagine a more beautiful way to encourage more people to experience the joy of reconciliation with God. I love priests that are so connected to Beauty. It was such a St. Bernardino of Sienna moment. (We love him dearly because he is the patron saint of graphic designers, my husband's profession).