The Lenten journey cannot be sustained when our focus is all about avoiding certain activities, or breaking bad habits. Many people when they think of Lent think, “Oh, that time when you go without something.” We won’t, however, be able to sustain an approach that begins and ends with the negative.
Remember, the reason we give up certain things is to make space in our lives for God’s grace in your life. (Or more accurately, to recognize the grace, since the grace is there even when we are too distracted to notice it.) Without the grace, Lent degenerates into Law.
What are practical ways to keep the focus on God’s grace? If, for instance, your goal is to clear your minds of the clutter, you may have more success turning from your habits of t.v watching or internet surfing if you have an activity to put in its place, such as a regularly scheduled walk. Maybe the same can be accomplished by finding a good book that inspires your soul, holds your attention and provides pleasure all at the same time. (Note: I recently set up a lending library in the hallway outside our sanctuary. You will find a range of books on Christianity and spirituality.)
Bill Gripp mentioned in a response to my day #1 blog that he has found spending time outdoors in nature replenishes his soul. There is something truly liberating when we can get away from human engineering and the endless obsession we human beings have to be in control. (Jesus himself went into the wilderness before he started his ministry, and retreated when the stress of his ministry wore him down. We tend to think of the “wilderness” in these stories as being barren, but I don’t think this is how Jesus experienced it.)
Carve out some time in your day to simply be, and not do. Many of us know two ways of being in the world: 1) busily working, or 2) mindlessly escaping. During Lent, try and find a third way: neither working, nor escaping – a times when you are simply present to the so-often missed wonder of your life.
Jesus, you took delight in life – in the lilies of the field, in good food and parties, good stories, in children. This Lent, help us to remember how to take delight as well. We want to clear away the clutter that closes our heart to delight. Save us from the compulsion of having to be in control. Amen.