Hi everyone. Rob here.
My son tested positive for Covid-19 last night so our family has just entered into a time of isolation. It’s not unexpected as our country experiences its first real nationwide surge of cases. It’s also the first week of Lent; a time where we traditionally lay aside certain things in order to prepare our hearts, minds and bodies for the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus at Easter. I like the way our minister puts it. He invites us at Lent to lay something down, pick something up and give something away. A time of enforced isolation is an opportunity to focus on Jesus and this invitation that Lent offers.
As I ponder those 3 invitations I do so mindful of the pain that is in the world and all around me at the moment. I am connected to this pain as a fellow human being. We are not islands. The suffering of Ukraine as they endure a cruel and brutal war they did not ask for or even provoke, 3 years of the Covid-19 pandemic fuelling a profound sense of grief, uncertainty and dislocation and a planet groaning under the weight of climate change. Closer to home I see cancer diagnoses, work uncertainty, anger and irritability on the rise and many other challenges to our mental and emotional health. Getting to my own life I see significant work challenges, a marriage that needs nurturing, finances that need careful managing, older parents to be mindful of and children turning into adults before my very eyes. My desire, then, is for Lent to increase my capacity to see with God’s eyes, hear with God’s ears and love with God’s heart in this troubled world. What can I lay down, pick up and give away in order to build that capacity?
I thought I had the answer to those questions a few days ago but isolation has changed things. While work carries on and my phone becomes my office the reality is there’s less to do. I now have more time than I had. At the same time my tidy compartmentalised life is now messy with work and family in the same space. I find myself thinking of Jesus who had the clarity and the ability to always know what the most important thing at any given moment was. At times it was being in the crowd teaching and healing. At other times it was taking the disciples away for restoration and deeper teaching. And at other times it was spending time alone with the Father in the quiet of the night. At times it was giving himself away and at other times it was building himself up and at other times it was building others up. This was the fruit of his Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life.
So I seek to lay down mindlessness – mindless media watching, mindless eating or drinking, mindless chatter or gossip, mindless activity and so on. I seek to pick up prayerful awareness – God’s priorities if you will. This will involve silence, scripture and solitude. I seek to give away prayer, love, kindness and the other fruits of the Spirit. That tells me that I can’t do this on my own. I’ll need God but I’ll also need the wisdom and insights of my church community, my friends and other wise sages.
May your journey of Lent be filled with God’s Spirit. May it enable you to receive the fullness of Easter and to give that fullness away in the name of Jesus. May there be peace in Ukraine and other war zones and may we all grow in our capacity to love as we give ourselves over to God.
Grace and peace.