Lenten Reflection Day #1


It’s Ash Wednesday.  Let’s begin with the basics.  The Book of Worship declares:   “Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday…”  The 40 days is a reminder of both the 40 days Jesus spent fasting  in the wilderness undergoing temptation, as well as the 40 years the God’s people spent wandering the wilderness before finally reaching the promised land.    The attention span of we modern folk is pretty miniscule in comparison to all previous peoples who walked this earth..  The notion of something taking 40 days, let alone 40 years, doesn’t fit well with us.   We want what we want NOW.    So one of the rudimentary themes of Lent will be learning patience.   

There’s this folk singer named Bob Franke who writes these strikingly beautiful lyrics.   Here’s a piece of one: 

There’s a hole in the middle of the prettiest life,
so the lawyers and the prophets say.
Not your father nor your mother nor your lover’s gonna ever make it go away,
And there’s too much darkness in an endless night
to be afraid of the way we feel;
Let’s be kind to each other, not forever, but for real.
  (Bob Franke, For Real)

We don’t have much patience with this hole in our soul.   We want to stuff it with something, anything.   Lent calls us to resist the urge to try and fill the hole with something that isn’t really what we are longing for. 

A single mother in my first church told of an experience she once had that has stayed with me over the years.  Early one evening she was home with her six year old son who usually would fill this time with his chatter.  On this particular evening the boy uncharacteristically fell asleep on the couch, leaving an unusual silence in their apartment.   The woman felt an urge to turn on the t.v. to fill the silence; but something within told her not to do it.

After a few moments, she got the idea of turning on the radio, but once more that voice within said to remain still.   In the unusual stillness of her house, she waited out the restlessness.  Something shifted.  She described a feeling of wellbeing overtaking her; it was as if, she said, her house was suddenly enveloped by a golden aura. 

What this woman experienced expresses the hope of Lent:  that in resisting the urge to stuff ourselves with things that will distract us, we will discover a grace that our stuffing has gotten in the way of.

So, as a place to begin, it might be helpful to identify what some of your favorite ways of trying to stuff the hole are.   Here are a few rather common ways:   Eating, watching t.v., surfing the web, gossiping, complaining, shopping, drinking, plotting the trajectory to of a future success.   Generally speaking, these preoccupations keep us from being in the present.

Merciful God, as we enter into this season of Lent, help us to resist the urge to flee from the moment.  Grant us patience, that we might walk with Jesus as he makes his way to the cross.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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