Here is a Question for you to ponder – as a person, how ‘present’ are you? For example, when you’re in the room with someone else, how present are you to that person? Are you with them or might you just as well be somewhere else? I wonder, how present a person are you to all of God? Other people? The world that we live in? To yourself? Put another way, how easy do you find it to focus on tasks that need to be done in order to make time for relationships? But actually you focus on tasks that are never ending at the expense of building your relationships with others?
Lent is a gift. It provides us with an annual reminder to slow down, draw close to God again and rebuild our relationship with him and with others. Now eleven days into Lent, I wonder what are you now doing to build your relationship with God? What are you doing to declutter your life and make more space for all of God, other people, our world and yourself during these next few weeks? What ‘holy habits’ are you putting in place?
It’s no accident that after Jesus’ baptism but before he begins his ministry that Jesus goes into the wilderness to pray (Mark 1, Matthew 4, Luke 4). Jesus has a busy time ahead of him! It’s interesting to observe too that all through Jesus’ life – after a busy day or before an important meeting – what does he do? He returns to the ‘eremos’ (the Greek word that is translated in various ways in the New Testament – the wilderness, the desert, the solitary place, the lonely place, the quiet place). Jesus uses the Quiet Place as his place to prepare for ministry, to recuperate, to keep going. He finds time to be alone with God in prayer and fasting and reading the Scriptures.
This Lent – How will you build your relationship with God? Will you set aside time – even fight to free the time if you have to – to read Scripture and pray? If this sounds difficult, is there something that you can fast from? Perhaps you could observe a traditional Friday food fast? (If it’s safe for you to do so) Or another fast – from the TV, radio or smartphone, fantasy football app (guilty!) – whatever it is that eats up your time in a sometimes unhealthy way!
John Mark Comer in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world (Hodder & Stoughton, 2019), reflecting on when life gets silly busy sums it up so well:
“The Quiet Place is the first to go,
rather than our first go to”
If Jesus as the Son of God needed quiet space to prepare for ministry then how much more do we! All of us need both ‘silence and solitude’. We need silence – where we switch off the external noises and quiet and still ourselves internally too. We need solitude – where we learn to become comfortable at being alone – with God.
We are now in the middle of a second Lent in Lockdown. Never did I imagine that we would be spending a second Lent in Lockdown! This month – on 23 March – it will be a year since the Prime Minister made his now famous broadcast to the nation: “Stay At Home”. This year though, Lent is different. Hope is on the way. We regularly hear news of someone new receiving a Covid-19 vaccination. Our young children are starting to return to school and more businesses are reopening. We’re moving from ‘response’ to ‘recovery’ and by the summer or autumn we hope, ‘reconstruction’. I am hopeful that one or more of our church buildings will reopen towards the end of this month. But for now we are still in Lockdown for a little while longer yet.
Solitude and community are both necessary for us to thrive as human beings. With a way out of Lockdown being paved for us, it looks like our opportunities to rebuild community will increase soon. I wonder then, could this second Lent in Lockdown, be a God given opportunity for us to practice silence and solitude just that little bit more easily? This Lent, will you use Silence and Solitude to draw closer to God? And thus be better present to all of God, others, our world and ourselves? Why not commit to reading a gospel? Pray the Lord’s Prayer or Diocesan Lent prayer daily? Join us for our Wednesday Prayer Hour on Zoom? Ask for a copy of our Worship at Home leaflet that we now deliver weekly to those not online? How will you build your relationship with God this Lent?
P.S. For some ideas on how you might build your relationship with God this Lent, please click below:
Rev Adam Pawley