"The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw-and knew I saw-all things in God and God in all things." ~Mechtild of Magdeburg
Here we are two days into Lent. How is it going for you? Some people I know give up things for Lent…chocolate, wine, television, mostly things that give them pleasure. I've yet to hear of anyone giving up say, spinach, brussel sprouts or exercise. Why do you think that is? There is a movement I've also heard of this year to give up driving to reduce one's carbon footprint. Not a bad idea but one that would take, for most people, an incredible amount of re-orchestrating daily movement. I am sure these sacrifices all have meaning to the people who are embarking on them. I personally have never found this kind of practice helpful to my spiritual life which is, I think, the purpose of giving something up for Lent.
Instead, for me, Lent has always been a time of taking on something, something that will in some way lead me into a deeper relationship with the Holy. Taking on a new dimension of life has more power for me than giving up something like chocolate which, for me, would only make me crabby and obsessive, waiting so much for those Cadbury Easter eggs that I would miss Lent altogether. Different strokes. One year I prayed a novena every day using a book by Joan Chittister,OSB called Life Ablaze. One Lent I made a promise of writing a poem everyday.(Nominal success,leading to some pretty bad poetry.) Another I did lectio divina, a practice of reading scripture slowly, meditatively, looking for the phrase or word that seemed to speak directly to me. Of course, all these practices had limited success in living them out as most life changes we make. But I do believe they served to give a certain intention and focus to this season which can shape us in new ways if we let it.
This year I have decided to read through the book of Ezekiel and try to create something visual as a daily practice. Ezekiel has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible. It contains the resurrection story of the Hebrew scriptures, the story of the dry bones scattered in the wilderness waiting for the Spirit to breathe over them bringing them to life once again. It is a good story to walk with in Lent, in winter days. In the midst of February and March, two of the coldest months of the year,who can not identify with the white bones, lifeless and without form? These months are filled with waiting for new life.
Lent can be,if we allow it, a time set aside for creating a practice to wake us up to the presence of the Holy. It can be a time to wander in the wilderness like Jesus did further honing our identity, getting to know ourselves in new ways. In the process we may just come to know God in new ways as well. This might happen through giving up something. It also might happen by committing ourselves, like Mechtild, to seeing God in all things and all things in God. As I read the scriptures it seems pretty clear that this is what Jesus did. He walked around looking for God in all things…people, places, fish, bread, wine. And in the process enfolding all things in God.
Whatever the practice, or lack of one, may our walk these days lead us to a fuller knowledge of the One who walks with us, even when we do not know it.