St. Patrick’s Day, and today my little leprechaun smiles benignly and rests comfortably in my inner warmth. A gentle sprite, content to let me be. Today he even breathes some of his lively spirit into my spirit and lends me a bit of his tireless energy, seeming to delight in the small tasks I can manage. Today my little “Irish friend” is all charm and spreads his magic through me to let me feel an almost-wholeness, while he quietly hums and twiddles his tiny thumbs.
But tomorrow may be a very different story! Tomorrow this little fellow may awaken to a feistiness that will bode trouble for me. Tomorrow his eye may gleam maliciously as he runs riotously through my system, wreaking havoc wherever his tiny toes touch down. Tomorrow he may, in the words of Yeats, “leap on to a wall and spin, balancing himself on the point of the hat with his heels in the air.” And all that mischievous leaping and spinning will set my teeth on edge and send weakening shivers through my system, while he will simply grin with glee.
Sigh. The little leprechaun who has taken up residence in my body is the CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) that’s been with me for years. God knows I have tried taming this little fellow! With alternative medicines. With special diets. With rest and rest and more rest. With stress management systems. With exercise plans. With prayer and meditation. But all to only little effect. My little leprechaun has nested himself in my body, and he is not the least bit interested in leaving or in being tamed!
Many of us, I suspect, have similar little leprechauns bedeviling us in some way—physically, emotionally, or mentally—and there seems to be no way to rid our lives of these feisty little creatures. And much of the time—thankfully, with modern medical advances, not all the time!—these imps are only slightly tamable! So what to do?
Part of the discipline of Lent, it seems to me, is learning to live with the mischievous, pesky, untamable leprechauns in our lives:
- learning to live with them one day at a time;
- learning to accept with some measure of grace whatever challenges these annoying little creatures present to us each day;
- learning to recognize that accompanying us in our difficulties is the One who walked his own difficult road, a road that led to the cross;
- learning even to experience a certain hallowedness in the limitations our leprechauns impose on us—limitations which can draw us into a deeper awareness of who we are and of who God intends for us to be.
Not an easy discipline. But an important one. And as we work on learning to live with our difficulties, it’s possible that our little leprechauns themselves, with a twinkle in their beady little eyes, just might be able to help us:
- help us to learn a certain playfulness in response to the arbitrary mischief they spin in our lives;
- help us learn to discover paths of wonder and delight, even if we can’t do all we’d like to be able to do, to be all we’d like to be able to be;
- help us learn to take their little leprechaun hands and imagine ourselves dancing with them in gratitude for life, life that’s rich and full even though it’s been diminished by their unpredictable mischief.