I admit it – I’ve gotten a little lax and lazy! We are two-thirds of the way into Lent and I need a mid-course correction. Today I took a pen to paper and tried to generate possible strategies for activating each of the traditional Lenten practices of fasting, alms-giving and prayer. Here’s what I came up with. No, I am not committing to put each into practice. I just need to get the energy flowing as a counter to Lenten lethargy. Maybe something here will give you a jump-start as well.
City crews came through yesterday pruning trees on the boulevard. Pruning shapes, strengthens and beautifies trees. Pruning actually increases productivity in food and flower-bearing plants. What “pruning” would have a corresponding effect in me?
Fasting immediately conjures food and eating less. What if we ate the same amount but shared a meal with someone who is hungry for more than food right now? What would happen if we invited a grieving neighbor over for dinner or a struggling colleague out for lunch?
A dinner guest on Tuesday said he has a goal of taking the bus to work at least four days a week. He’s worked up to that number and has learned to enjoy his commute much more than if he were battling traffic. He saves a boatload of money but also takes pride in lessening his consumption of fossil fuels. Consider eco-fasting!
I am very attached to my opinions and am disposed to judgmentalism. What if I were to consistently try – and this would be a challenge – to give everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt? What if I tried really hard to give the best interpretation to the other person’s words or behaviors for a full 24 hours?
What is our most precious resource? Of course, its time! What if I conscientiously gave my attention to someone who holds a different opinion, to the neighbor who asks to borrow a cup of sugar but actually wants to vent about an exasperating child, or recognized when someone needs us to take time to quietly listen and is not asking for answers or our opinion?
What would be the hardest thing for me to give away? Wow! As I compile my long list of possibilities I am inspired to wonder “why?” What is it about this item that would make it so hard? Simply getting in touch with this fact opens us to better understand our true values and can be quite illuminating!
I have Psalm 46:10 on a card on an easel in my prayer space: “Be still and know that I am God.” Truthfully, God must get pretty exasperated with my incessant babble, wish-lists and emergencies. What if I were to give myself over to simply resting in God’s embrace like a child in her mother’s arms? What… let God be God?
My friend Susan Stabile quoted Fr. Robert Barron’s book Why Your Body Matters for Prayer on her blog Creo en Dios a few days ago [link]: “The body in a significant sense precedes the mind. If you’re having difficulty in prayer today try kneeling, or bowing, or making some sort of reverent gesture. The body often leads the mind into a deeper spiritual space.”
We mouth the Lord’s Prayer all the time but do we really mean it? What if we were the pray – really pray – YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done… here, now! Mean it! That would be nothing short of the deep, transforming conversion Lent is intended to inspire.
Finally, and most importantly, Lenten practices are not about our endurance or success. Rather, they are intended merely to dispose us to God’s enduring presence and ever-merciful love.