Did you make any resolutions this year? How are they going? Statistics suggest most of us are done with our resolutions by now. The only time I ever successfully stayed on a diet for any length of time was years ago when I decided to build failure into it—knowing I’d quit after a month or so, I had a plan to start a new diet once a month. I did Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, and I forget what-all. It worked, for about five months, and then I lost interest in all of them. We’re creative people, and we need new patterns to successfully reshape our lives and traditions—and we need the balance of not too much new, but just enough, because we also resist change.
Fortunately, God is always up to something new, not only creating new life in nature all around us, but rebuilding us spiritually whenever we tune in. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19) Jesus even says that he came that we may have new, abundant life. (John 10:10) Easter comes early this year, March 31, which means the question “what am I giving up for Lent” is a smooth segue from “what did I resolve on New Year’s,” and both of these are questions about how we can bring some new light into the patterns of our lives.
This Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14 (the day of Love—how appropriate!) I’m going to go back to a discipline which has helped me in the past. Every morning, before I check any device, or read the paper or seek input from any outside source, I’m going to seek input from God in the form of meditative prayer that asks nothing of the Lord except to speak to my heart as the Lord will. Petitions for those in need, confessions and words of praise I will offer later in the day; I start receiving only what God will give.
We Presbyterians are people of words. We talk and write and preach and think, think, think all the day long, and that’s wonderful. Scripture calls us to talk to God, and intellectually ponder God’s Word, but it’s also good to pause and engage in prayer-Sabbath, ceasing from work in our minds for just a few minutes. I try to clear my mind of its frenetic busy-ness, and when I do, I often hear clear messages from the Spirit of peace and grace. “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
What if we, as a church, spend the season of prayer and penitence not telling God what to do, but waiting and listening? What new light might unfold?
“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” (Psalm 145:5)
Light and Love,