How I Encountered God in Lent
Of all the holidays, holy days and seasons throughout our liturgical calendar, Lent is my favorite, but it wasn’t always that way. When I was younger, I saw it as an annoyance or an inconvenience with so many rules—give up something, pray more, don’t eat, save your money to give to the poor, get to confession, read your Bible, encounter Jesus, increase your faith. I never really understood how I was supposed to encounter Jesus or increase my faith when I was hungry, moody, and giving my money away.
Luckily, God knows our shortcomings and idle ways of thinking, and he uses life circumstances to help us understand the deeper meaning of it all. That came to me in a hard lesson one particular Lent when my Dad was called home to his eternal resting place.
The Connection and The Encounter
It was the first week of Lent in 2013. I had just relocated to San Antonio from New Hampshire and was eager to have my parents come to visit our new home in the coming weeks. I talked to my Dad on the phone after Ash Wednesday Service, and he described how beautifully moving it had been and how he had really felt a connection and encounter with God like never before. He said it was hard to put in words, but he was sure God was trying to tell him something. I could tell how moved he was by the experience, but didn’t think more of it.
Two days, later I would get a call that would change my life. My Dad had fallen asleep for a short nap in the evening on Friday, never to wake up again. With no illness or any other definitive medical reason for this occurrence, it just simply seemed like it was time to go, and the Lord had called him home.
The grieving was unbearable, and the preparations seemed endless, but I kept coming back to the words my Dad spoke about Ash Wednesday; “the connection and the encounter.” I brought this before our Lord in adoration… I want this too Lord, but how, especially when I am so broken? I was so torn up in my own despair that I was certain I wouldn’t hear Him if he spoke to me. All of the sudden, in my spirit, a gentle voice arose. “Unite your suffering with mine.”
A Big Ask
I was kind of startled with that request and upon thinking deeply about it, I realized I had never taken the time to REALLY understand Christ’s sufferings. Of course, I read about them and listened during homilies when they were explained for my better understanding, but did I ever really “feel His sufferings” to understand them? I don’t think so. I took this message as an invitation from our Lord to dig deeper, and He made it really easy to do. Here we were, now the second week in Lent, and I came to the realization that—in this season—His sufferings are all laid bare for us to witness, and we are called to accompany him through these weeks leading up to the resurrection.
I dug deeper into all the rich scriptures, and really paid attention to the healings that took place, the lives that were touched, the hurts that were healed, and the sacrifices that were made. I started to see myself in these verses and where Jesus wanted to heal my broken parts, too. Through encountering our Lord in this deeper way, I began to understand that Lent isn’t a time for feeling hungry, or moody or broke; it’s a time for rejoicing and a call to empty ourselves so we may decrease, which leaves room for Him to increase in us!
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Since that Lenten turning point in 2013, I feel like my encounters with God happen much more frequently; I just have to keep my eyes wide open to notice them. I look for opportunities when I am low, to hand my worries over to the Lord and unite my sufferings with His. Each Lent I view as an opportunity to go even deeper in understanding and in faith, and I get excited to see what special ways I will encounter the Lord or how he will draw me deeper.
Feeling Whole Again
This Lent, he is working on me to understand the Eucharistic miracle in a deeper way, and the appreciation and reverence behind it. I was asked to bring Holy Eucharist to a friend’s Mom while she was in the hospital battling cancer. Each time I would bring it to her, after we would pray, she would consume it, cover her mouth, close her eyes and tears would stream down her face. She fully believed, without doubting, that the Lord had just entered her body—and even though she was suffering, for just a time, she felt whole again. She lost her battle with cancer this month, but her faith in knowing who our Lord is—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, has made a lasting impression on my heart. Her example of reverence helps me encounter Jesus more deeply through the sacrament of communion.
Our Lord wants to encounter us in the ordinary, daily moments of our lives and use all things for his good and his glory—even the parts that hurt—to draw us closer to him. Are you open to letting him bring you deeper this Lent? He can use whatever you are going through to draw near to you; just be willing to say, “I want this, too, Lord, but how?”
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Mandi-bre Watson is a passionate follower of Jesus, a devoted wife, and a mother of 4. Through her writing and speaking, she tries to be a beacon of hope as she points people to the Savior. She owns a small marketing company that helps other small businesses and is also the owner of an online boutique, Veiled in Love, where she sells her handmade veils. She is a certified Spiritual Companion through Oblate School of Theology & an active member of St. Francis of Assisi Church. Mandi-bre also served as the Emcee of the 2022 Catholic Women’s Conference and serves as a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.
Thanks you for sharing. This encourages me to keep looking and listening for connections and encounters. I appreciate your suggestion to ask the Lord “How?”
Thank you for your kind words Letty. God bless you on your Lenten Journey!