Lent begins in a month… I've already seen several advertisements for programs, book clubs, virtual retreats, etc. They all seem to say it's not too early to start planning how to spend your time this Lent. But… is it? Are we really supposed to spend these precious days of Ordinary Time focusing on the season ahead? Or is this just a spillover malady from the marketing cycle, where everything has to be sold one quarter earlier? Is all this strategizing robbing us of today?
One of childhood's greatest gifts is the freedom from having to worry about the future. When children are properly cared for, they know their needs will be met. Adulthood brings responsibilities that require us to spend some time looking ahead. But with that comes the temptation to over-plan, to try to control every detail, to be constantly looking ahead. We end up spending so much time thinking (and worrying) about tomorrow that we miss living today. But this is utter foolishness. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. What if today ends up being our last day?
How are we called to live this ordinary day? The call is the same one it will be during Lent. We are to live this day in prayer. And by prayer, I mean in relationship with the one true living God. This is a place of abiding, of resting, of being loved. It is the place from where all our activity should flow… even our planning for the future. When our plans are guided by the gentle voice of God, we are living with Him in the present moment. We are looking at Him, trusting that He already knows what is ahead. We return to that blessed state of childhood, where we are cared for, where we know our needs will be met.
Our task then is to do everything in our power to enter into His Presence and there strive to remain. This will look different for each one of us. Our state in life, our season in life, our unique character traits, all of these will affect what our prayer life looks like, but there is one thing they will all require, and that is silence. Exterior silence is beneficial, but it is merely a means to the true silence within. Once we learn to still our hearts, we can abide in holy silence even amid the noise and the chatter. It is in that silence where we can listen… where we can begin to pray.
Perhaps God is calling you to sign up for a Lenten program… or to buy a new book… or prepare ahead. But maybe He is not calling you to do any of that. Perhaps He is inviting you to rest and gather your strength instead. The only way you will know is to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, to attune your heart to the silent sound of God's Word.