A Lenten Nudge
Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.
This past Wednesday, I participated in an Ash Wednesday service at my church. It is custom to intone the words from Genesis, “You are dust and dust you shall return,” as the sign of the cross is sealed in ash upon the forehead. The ashes symbolize the sobering truth that we are finite. A day will come when we will cease to exist as we are now. Unless you are a pebble, this news should come as an affront to everything you are and hope for. We are biologically programmed to fear and avoid our end at all costs. God created us for life. But even the best adventures must come to an end. I’m still waiting for the 4-color brochure and itinerary for destination heaven.
Either talk of dust incites fear, or action in you. Study Jesus’s life and you notice how much he lived in and for the present moment. He knew he was subject to the ticking clock and chose to live the deepest, bravest, most meaningful and impactful life possible. He was committed to the human adventure, a life of discovering who he was and what his capacities were, especially when it came to love. Jesus used every bit of his humanity and divinity to heal, love, forgive, and reflect goodness in the world. He lived a life that mattered—-still matters. Jesus’s relationship with his Father gave him courage, creativity and a solid grounding to work from. Jesus knew that the quality of his interior life would directly impact the success of his earthly mission. Therefore, he was disciplined in the care of his soul, stepping away from the world in quiet reflection, study and prayer. Jesus was determined the world would receive the best of him. All of this is in our purview. Jesus gifted us with a clear and beautiful path to follow.
My scripture inspiration for Lent 2020 comes from 1 Samuel when God says, “I do not look at outward appearances and accomplishments, only the condition of one’s heart.” What made Jesus exceptional was the purity of his heart. Lent is a time to check in with our hearts. How pure are our motives? How generous are we with our love? Who are we still denying forgiveness? What perspectives are we holding that diminish ourselves and others? Day by day, is the world better because we are in it? What do we really know about God? If we were to take out our calendar or bank statement, would it reflect the wishes of our ego or soul? God is not looking for perfection, just a willing heart.
A couple of ways to expand your spiritual experience over the next 40 days of Lent in preparation for Easter:
1. Daily pray for the person you are struggling to forgive or do life with. When a negative thought surfaces, immediately meet it with a prayer for that person.
2. Practice a “step away” exercise. Consciously and with discipline take your leave of the world, like Jesus did in the desert. Go to a room in your house and shut the door and say a prayer at the same time every day. Commit to a three minute breathing/meditation practice before you rise from your bed. Set up an altar in a well-trafficed place in your house, light candles in the evenings and lay hand-written notes of things you would like to entrust to God. Take a walk in nature without your phone or music.
3. Pick a spiritual devotion to read and reflect on during Lent. I suggest one of the gospels, or the spiritual writings of C.S. Lewis, Richard Rohr, or Barbara Brown Taylor, or how about the poetry of the Psalms or Rumi.
Lent is an invitation to close the distance; the distance between who you are and who you know you can be; close the distance between your material and spiritual reality and loyalties; close the distance between your heart and God. There is life to be lived, meaning to be made, a God to be known. Yes, we are dust, but we have the opportunity to prove we are so much more!