Monday 11 April 2022

Lent 2022

This year, as I have for many years, most days during Lent (the traditional Christian season of preparation for Easter) I have done the following reflection.

Spend some time with God each day, ask him to purify your heart and mind through the power of the Holy Spirit. Be willing to surrender to God.

You may want to ask him questions such as:
- What words have I used that have hurt others?
- What actions or activities have I engaged in that are unhelpful or block my relationship with you?
- What ‘fruits’ need to grow in me? Characteristics such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness/generosity, faithfulness, gentleness/humility and self-control.

Holiness grows out of prayers like these.

Looking to tomorrow, take time to consider who or where God might want you to serve. What opportunities might arise where you can resist being the first, best or most important person? Are there situations at home, work or in everyday life where you can serve others tomorrow? Are there times where you can allow others to be first? Pray for the grace to be able to lay aside pride and take the place of a servant.

It wasn't originally intended as a Lent reflection, but rather came from a UK Bible Society series of studies on different strands of Christian spirituality - this one came from the 'Holiness' tradition.

I've also been fasting twice a week from when I wake up until around 4 in the afternoon.

Perhaps because of the fasting (something new for this year), or perhaps unrelatedly, it's been an uncommonly fruitful series of reflections for me.  I feel like I'm being stretched and my heart is being enlarged - which is not always pleasant, but which is good and satisfying.

I've been uncommonly busy these past 8 weeks or so (thankfully that busyness is mostly at an end now), and it's been helpful to have the Lent reflection time each afternoon, as it's helped me notice how I've been approaching people.  In particular, I've noticed again and again that I've been expecting people to be automata, and have been very intolerant of the messyness inherent in their humanity.  I want people to do the predictable thing - even when it has no impact on me - because that feels tidy and safe, and those feel like things I need to cope.  Again and again I've found myself praying for two particular fruit of the Spirit to grow in my life: kindness and generosity.

And I've been so grateful to see myself changing over the course of the weeks; to realise I really am growing in those areas and giving people more leave to simply be who they are.

Then, maybe three weeks ago, I found my attention repeatedly drawn to a particular tree that I can see from our back step - the golden one in the picture.  I felt like God was trying to say something, but I wasn't sure what.  So I kept taking time to look at it and wonder and pray.

The penny gradually dropped Monday two weeks ago

Monday is the day I take as my Sabbath.  Amongst other things, each Monday I try to take at least an hour to read from the Bible, prayerfully reflect on what I've read, and read from a thought-provoking Christian book.  Often I go somewhere else to do this, to be away from the distractions of home.

That Monday I walked to Heron Park.  As I entered the park, I wanted to take my shoes off.  On Mondays, I try to be particularly attentive to what I 'feel like', so that's what I did.  I walked over the strong, thick kikuyu grass, enjoying the feel of it against my soles.  When I stopped to do my reflection time under a tree, I kept stopping to run my hands through the thick mats of the grass (kikuyu forms a surprisingly deep mat - I don't think I'd realised that before!), and it felt good.  I thought about Moses and how he took off his shoes when he sees God in the burning bush.  He did that because the ground was holy because God was there.  But obviously that didn't apply to me.  Or did it?  And I thought about how the whole universe is infused with God's glory - so where I was was holy, after all.

As I walked back, I was amazed at the beauty of this tree, in particular.  And then I realised what it was about the other tree, the one I see by our back step.  It's blazing, and glorious - a visible token of the glory that generally we can't see.

And that circled back to my first realisation from Lent.  Expecting people to be automata and seeing people as obstacles when they act unexpectedly is most especially a problem because all people are made in God's image.  They blaze with God's glory even more than that tree does.

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