The Season of Lent will come upon us at the end of February and will run its course through March and half of April. There’s a great deal of preparation that has to start now as the congregation gets itself ready for this perennial observance. We need to begin to plan the extra services, look ahead and decide what class and bible study lessons should be prepared, order the materials and generally start clearing the table of any extraneous thing. Every year I write a short piece for the newsletter in the midst of this activity calling on all us to keep a holy Lent. And I think because of all the busyness going on when I write, I generally end up suggesting that rather than giving something up for Lent, people should think about taking on some additional spiritual disciplines.
This year feels different for me somehow. As I visit and chat with people while going about the day to day tasks of the congregation I hear more and more that people are feeling that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. The first couple of times I heard this I shook my head in agreement and commiserated with the speaker. But after hearing the same statement so many times and from so many people, I’m convinced that something deeper is going on around us and these words in fact represent a great need that we all have right now.
We are awash in information at the moment. We are awash in things that must be done – right now. We are awash crisis, whether it be national, ecclesiastical, or personal. We are awash in the events of our lives, hurrying on around us daily, rushing by us, and disappearing below our personal horizon only to be replaced by new events and information and crisis.
In the midst of all of this, I can’t find within myself any desire to encourage people to take on just one more thing – since I can’t imagine myself how I could take on one more thing. So perhaps this is a year not to assume additional burdens, but instead to take a long hard look at our lives and decide if there is something that we might be able to do without. Lent could become a chance to test out what sorts of things we might let go of in our lives, to see that we can survive without them, so that by letting something go, we might focus all the more fully on that which remains.
Clearly I’m not suggesting giving up something like asparagus for Lent. That would be too easy and would most likely not bring any spiritual benefit to our lives. But what if we were to limit our TV viewing, and then use that time to sit down and have dinner or lunch with friends and family more regularly? What if we were to turn off the telephones and make our selves sit by the fire for half an hour a night? What if we could shorten our morning routine enough to carve out 20 minutes of prayer? If we are able to do these things, could it be possible that in the silence or in the companionship of friends we might more clearly be able to hear God’s voice?
People tell me regularly that they have never heard God answer their prayer. I wonder that if with all the din and clatter of our everyday, workaday lives we would actually be able to hear God if God spoke? Perhaps being getting rid of some of the clutter in our lives (if only for 6 weeks), we might find that we discover that something much more profound and transforming has been there are the time, at arm’s length but unnoticed until we were able to be still for just a time.
Have a blessed and quiet Lent this year.