For centuries Christians have set aside the season of Lent to reflect on the significance of Jesus’ incarnation and how to live that truth out today. We do so in order to keep the resurrection celebration from being simply a one-day observance. Traditionally to help in fostering a spiritual advance, we have given up something or changed a habit in order to take on Christ in a deeper way.
When I pondered what commitment to make during Lent I settled on listening to God. For me, that’s not as simple or as easy as it may sound.
I’m an extrovert. I get energy from being around people. I love to talk, tell stories and laugh with others. But we talkers sometimes have a hard time listening. Meditation is a spiritual discipline which is lacking in my life. During each day of Lent, I have been making an intentional effort to spend time in silence before God. In that silence I am not simply rehearsing my fears and failures. That is not listening; it is another form of talking. In the silence I try to avoid bringing my to-do list with assignments for God. Reminding God of what I need God to do is not listening; it is talking by giving orders.
I am seeking to sit at the master’s feet and quietly listen in order to know God better. I do not want my perspective or situation in life to come between me and a deeper connection with the living God. If I am not careful, the noise in and around me can easily drown out that deeper connection.
“God has not called me to be a monk. But God is doing a new work in me this Lenten season.”
In silence I seek to come before God as a blank slate. The people we are closest to are those with whom we can have companionable silence. Shouldn’t that be true for the One who is our constant companion? Despite good intentions, I still find it hard to calm my mind and to rest in God’s presence.
In the moments of silence, I have been reminded that my vision of God is too small. My vision is skewed by the lenses through which I look at life. I can easily make God look too much like me instead of striving to make myself more like God. Throughout his life and ministry, including his journey to the cross, Jesus spent time alone with God. When Samuel was in the temple being called by God in the middle of the night Eli told him to simply respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” That mantra and the model of Jesus are often on my mind as I focus my silence before God.
There are potential spiritual breakthroughs God sees that are beyond my wildest dreams. In the silence some of the pieces of my life puzzle come together. Some of the pieces of life that have been bent and damaged begin to fit. At the same time, I discover that other pieces are unhelpful or harmful and need to be discarded.
Often, as I am quiet before God, a verse of scripture or some other spiritual truth comes to mind. As I reflect on those as I go through my day, I find that I can move forward with greater confidence and courage.
Like most of you, my life is too busy, overly complicated and distractingly noisy. Fortunately, God has not called me to be a monk. But God is doing a new work in me this Lenten season. Cultivating silence in my life will help provide the sacred space for that work to continue.
Editor’s note: We invited some of our opinion contributors to write reflections for the season of Lent. Published previously:
Molly T. Marshall | March 21 | ‘To love is to suffer.’ Saints like Julian and Hildegard point us to Jesus’ way of suffering love
Wendell Griffen | March 19 | A Lenten reflection about repentance, reparations and resistance
Kate Hanch | March 15 | A case for making the sign of the cross — even for us Baptists (and other Protestants)
Doyle Sager | March 14 | Compassion is the work of seeing, of making invisible people visible
Timothy Peoples | March 13 | Hunting for the divine spark in ourselves and others
Paul Robeson Ford | March 11 | Lent has come amid a moment of moral reckoning for American culture and the Church
Mark Wingfield | March 5 | I became a pastor who had trouble praying