lent. a time to slow down. to peer into your own soul. to face what you have become. a time for less activity and busyness. to thaw from winter. to feel the warmth and hope of spring. lent. it is moments of listening, seeking, searching, clearing, hoping, resting — lent is a time of forgiving and healing.
Yes, I am still a parent, spouse, child, employee, and friend. But I am more aware that I am a Child of God during Lent.
February 17th is Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day Lenten period.
Many have heard that during Lent it is traditional to give up or let go of something (or several things) that we wonder about its importance to us — perhaps something that is becoming too important we fear. I have given up different things over the years during Lent, but like New Year’s Resolutions I have found this difficult to follow through with and so it becomes an area of guilt. when I do not keep my “promise” to myself then I shove it into the “corner of my soul” where guilt and shame gather in a messy pile. And I try to forget I ever made that promise to myself — or — to GOD.
I have never done a true Lenten fast (I don’t actually know what it is.) But I have chosen 40 days without television, caffeine or chocolate. Or cussing, I tried that once. Didn’t last long.
Then I read somewhere that Lent could be less about giving up something and more about adding a discipline to our daily lives for 40 days. That started me thinking and wondering. Do I listen well to God?
LISTENING — St. Frances of Assisi
It is good to pray in community, with one or two trusted friends and those are rich times. But I have found most intimate and mystical, at times miraculous, the times of prayer in solitude. Not usually petitioning, but quiet moments to listen. Why then do I rarely find time alone for communicating and communing with God? That is a great mystery.
St. Frances “wondered aloud to God, asking many searching questions. Was his whole life a mistake? Why had he survived serious illness when others had not? Francis came to know his heart very well, and he accused it of every possible hint of selfishness. His restless spirit understood the psalmists’ passion.”
“Francis returned to the most basic spiritual questions. Toward the end of Francis’ life, one of his eavesdropping friends overheard him asking plaintively: “Who are you, my dearest God? And what am I?” His contemplation never steered far from a consciousness of his own sinfulness. (Walking through Lent with St. Frances of Assisi by Jon M. Sweeney)
Some time over this Lenten period find the solitude of a hiking trail in the woods to take a long walk or an old empty church to sit in quietly.
DARK OF THE NIGHT
There are times when my soul gets restless. I begin to get a whiff of God speaking to me, but I am a thick-sculled person and I do have trouble listening — hearing — so I begin to fret, and lose sleep, and get angry, and agitated. And then, God wakes me up in the night. The last times this happened I woke up at 3:00 am, four days in a row. Finally I got the message (I told you I’m a spiritual dolt at times.) I got up, began to write and God led me to an awareness of my need to forgive. A ten-year old grievance. A deep-set bitterness that I had both neglected and in some ways forgotten. An old, scarred-over wound. An area I had put in that “corner of my soul” where guilt and shame gather. I had tried to forget but GOD would not allow it.
The dark of the night is one of the best times for supplication and crying out. Beyond the ghosts shame and guilt in our soul — there is the trinity waiting. They call and then wait. And as we open our hearts, they heal.
So I will seek time quiet to be alone this Lenten season — quietly listening and I will add a discipline to my life in the morning and evening.
By doing the latter, naturally some things will fall by the wayside. Time scouring the internet for that thing which has become a god of late, knowledge and information. I will give it up only by replacing it with mornings and evenings of contemplation. Perhaps reading the prayers of St. Francis or other spiritual people. I suppose you can stay tuned.
Lent begins February 17th, Ash Wednesday. Plenty of time to consider your own disciplines.