Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Messiah our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This prayer is just what I needed as I opened the Prayer Book this morning for the first time in a couple of weeks. The practice of Lent is difficult. And the call to live reflectively, deeply reflective, during these Lenten weeks has proven to be impossible for me. I’ve not followed through. I’ve not been able to slow down and limit distractions. Over the last three weeks I’ve been as busy as I have been in the last six months. I’ve had two mission trips. The first was a Spring Break mission in Chicago with our college ministry. The other was an international trip to Czech. The trips were only part of a long task list of things that called for my attention. It is unrealistic to think that in the middle of a semester, in the middle of a ministry season, in the midst of writing projects, lectures, student meetings, and family commitments, I’d be able slow down to walk a reflective road to the cross.
Can you relate to this?
While I’m quite sure that I’m too busy, and I need to limit to what I commit myself, I think for many of us this pace of life is unavoidable. Some of us are driven people who find satisfaction from accomplishing significant things. Rather than see the inability to slow down as as a failure, I wonder if it is possible to redeem the busy schedule.
How do I walk reflectively amidst a hectic life? Here are a few suggestions:
(1) Don’t be rigid in spiritual discipline. If you commit to fasting and you don’t fast one week, just begin again. Allow there to be flexibility in the practices.
(2) Don’t be too hard on yourself. The practice of a reflective life is a grace from God. Treat it as such. It is not something you do to earn God’s favor, its something you do because you have it!
(3) Realize there are stages in life. Some are just busier than others. We can’t therefore compare ourselves to others in a different stage in life. It makes no sense for me to compare myself to someone whose now an empty nest-er, when I have twin five-year olds running around (I’ve already been interrupted a couple of times writing this post). Perhaps most importantly,
(4) Learn to say no to good and significant invitations. I’m learning this. Just this week I’ve turned down a few things: breakfast meetings with a friend, an invitation to speak to a group, and an invitation to participate in a radio talk show on the subject of Jesus. In each case these were hard “no’s”.