Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Giving Up, Taking On



Ecclesiastes 3:7
“…a time to keep silence and a time to speak”

One of the first things I fell in love with the church over is the concept of seasons.  The rhythm of worship is like waves on the shore. In weekly worship we come in and we go out.  In our calendar we have seasons of contemplation and of celebration.  In our lives there are both joys and sorrows.  If we hit a bad spell we can accept it easier if we trust that there will be good times ahead someday. Every season is different-- which is nice; otherwise we might all die of boredom. But seasons teach us, as we sometimes say nowadays, that “it came to pass, it didn’t come to stay.”

Lent is one of those seasons. From Ash Wednesday to Easter morning is 47 days.  You can do just about any inconvenient thing for 47 days.  People give up chocolate because they know Easter morning they can have it again. I’ve been there.  I was that woman in the parking lot at Walmart, eating a chocolate Easter bunny right there in the car. And I don’t intend to ever give up chocolate again. Been there, done that.

What I haven’t done very much of is praying—really praying.  Being still is a chore for me--always has been.  I’m at the stage of my life now, however, that I know the body is going to balk at some point.  When that day comes I fear I might turn into an axe murderess or something if I am not prepared to be still.    

For the last twenty years or so I have been buying books and borrowing books and reading all about being still and contemplative.  I’ve read blogs and websites and emails and pamphlets.  The one thing I haven’t done a very good job of was to actually do it.  To actually spend time in prayer.  It’s time to stop reading for a while and practice contemplation instead of reading about it. 

On Ash Wednesday we enter one of the clearest examples of the rhythm of our worship of God.  For the next 47 days we will be encouraged to sit still and contemplate the deep love of our Creator, the shortcomings of our own humanity and the fragility of life. 

Later on, prepared by prayer, on Good Friday we’ll enter a three-day period of deep darkness, of sorrow and despair.  We can imagine what His disciples were thinking: “What happens next?  He told us He would come back but this is death we’re talking about.  Death is pretty damned final.  Nobody ever comes back after death. “  But He told them to wait so they waited.  Then on Sunday He does it.  He does the impossible.  He comes back to life from death.   And the church celebrates our most joyful day.  And we do it the day after our most sorrow-filled time. The mood goes as deep as a grave then rises up to the highest heights of joy. The black drapes are pulled from the cross and the lights come up and we sign Hallelujah to God for loving us beyond our wildest imagination. Rhythm.

Then we go home and hunt for Easter Eggs in one of the oldest and most pagan rituals we have—as though we haven’t learned anything.  And God still loves us.  I imagine God smiling as a patient parent, letting it pass, letting us have our little fun.

My Jewish friend who keeps Kosher says the main benefit to the practice is that it throws a wrench into the gears of her life and makes her stop and think.  With every decision she makes regarding the food she eats or doesn’t eat, she is reminded that the food restrictions come from God.  That tiny moment of decision brings her back to her relationship with God.  Every bite is a quiet little celebration of a relationship.

I am all for tiny reminders in my day that tell me once again that God and I are spiritual lovers. So I’m game for throwing a wrench into my life for a spell.  Many pastors, including my own, suggest that instead of “giving up” we should “take on” a spiritual practice like prayer.  I’m going to try it.

So, here’s what I think I’m going to try to do. I have thought of one of my daily habits that I enjoy and practice throughout each day, that I can live without, that will be a frequent reminder to me to stop and reflect on God. Something that’s become such an integral part of my life that I would notice if it went missing.  And I figured out I could give up facebook. And I will take the time I spend on facebook and spend it in prayer instead.

I will still check my messages at facebook.  The hard part will be checking for messages but ignoring the notifications.   I’ll still check my emails and I’ll still post my blog.  I will communicate but during this time, instead of ecommiserate, I will contemplate.

Instead of scrolling facebook for news from friends, I will re-turn to a website I found years ago but have fallen away from.  If you are so inclined, here’s the link:  http://inwardoutward.org

When Jesus speaks about the world, he is very realistic. He speaks about wars and revolutions, earthquakes, plagues and famines, persecution and imprisonment, betrayal, hatred and assassinations. There is no suggestion at all that these signs of the world’s darkness will ever be absent. But still, God’s joy can be ours in the midst of it all. It is the joy of belonging to the household of God whose love is stronger than death and who empowers us to be in the world while already belonging to the kingdom of joy.

Henri J. M. Nouwen
Source:
Return of the Prodigal Son

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

Like that so much...throwing a wrench into the gears, making us stop and think.