Preparing for Lent: Slowing Down


February 22nd — 4th Email

In the story of creation in Genesis 1 it declares that of all God’s creatures we alone are made in the image of God.  Scientists may one day discover that creatures such as dolphins, whales and elephants have a grandeur to them that humbles us. But as a general rule all other creatures besides human beings act strictly out of instinct, not choice.

But our freedom to choose is extremely limited.  Some scientists believe we have no real freedom at all — that all of what we think of as the “choices” we make are pre-determined by our genes and environments.

In moments of deep reflection, however we sense that this is not altogether true.  We can choose – to move towards the light of God or to the darkness — to choose love in circumstances when our instinct is to hate.

But it is true that a great deal of the thoughts we think and the things we do arise out of “habits” we have developed over time and as such they don’t involve conscious choosing.  Many habits are quite good and useful, but others are not.  During Lent we hope to provide space in our busy lives in which to become aware of some of our unhelpful habits and make choices to change them, thereby broadening our freedom.

Carl Jung said “Hurry isn’t of the Devil.  It is the Devil.”  When we are in a frantic, hurried state our hearts and minds shut down.  We develop tunnel vision.  We lose the present moment.  Our capacity for compassion goes out the window.  We become fatigued and stressed.  And I don’t know about you but when I am overly tired I am not my best self.  (It is interesting that it is in Genesis 1 that the concept of Sabbath – a day of rest is introduced.)

It would be a worthy goal to spend Lent seeking to become less hurried.

In a culture in which we are almost expected to be rushing around this would not be an easy goal to carry out.  But perhaps we can take certain practical steps.  Try and get enough sleep.  Try not to overbook your schedule.  Try to leave your house with enough time to get to appointments.

And when it is not possible to cut things out of our schedule, perhaps we can set markers throughout our day that remind us to slow down on the inside.  For instance, each time we get into our car or come to a traffic light, or reach time we pick up our phone we can say a little prayer in which we ask God to quiet our minds and bring us back to the present moment.