Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a period of forty days* in which we are invited to examine our hearts and return to God. The concept of forty days is linked to the time Jesus spent alone in the wilderness before he began his work. Jesus himself understood the need to set aside time to find his deepest desire of his heart, and to reconnect with God.
There is something about the ongoing routines of life — the daily grind — that takes a toll on our souls. We inevitably drift from our true center. The fact that this drifting is a slow, gradual process can make it so hard to notice. We assume that the quality of life that we are experiencing is “normal”, but we’ve lost the perspective to realize that this isn’t so. It’s understandable that we would consider the life we are living to be “normal”; most everyone else is similarly adrift as well.
Coming away from the daily grind, we begin to recognize what we have overlooked. The irritability, the anxiety, the hostility, the emptiness, the perpetual sense of being hurried, the resentments, the compulsive need to prove ourselves acceptable, the absence of joy… it becomes all so commonplace, but it isn’t “normal” in the sense that it isn’t what God
has designed life to be. God desires something much better. And as we step apart from the frantic rush for a time, we sense the possibility that life could indeed be lived quite differently. We sense a call back to our spiritual center.
Are we willing to make this season of Lent a special time in which we begin to imagine our lives lived once more out of the abundance of God’s grace? Everyone knows how hard it is to change old habits. We’d like to say, “here and now, we will live lives truly centered in God.” But we know ourselves well enough to recognize it’s not as easy as that. The pull away from our true center is so strong and persistent.
Perhaps, though, we can make a commitment to set aside a few minutes each day during which we will attempt to live more fully in God’s presence. In doing so, we will share with our church family our common quest for spiritual renewal, and the seeds of a new life will be planted.
Gracious God, we sense the desire to return to you — the One who has given us life and every good gift. Strengthen this desire within us. Give us a taste in this moment of what a life grounded in your love feels like. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
*Traditionally the forty days of Lent does not include Sundays. We will, however, have daily readings for Sundays in Lent as well.