There’s a vile connection, I’ve noticed, between a certain pair of digital read-outs that are part of my daily routine.
Or perhaps it’s a ‘vital’ connection.
Digital display #1 is on our bathroom scale…and let’s just say that I gave that sucker an ‘unprecedented workout’ in early January – sending its numeric computations into realms that quite frankly it had never seen before.
Digital display #2 is on the treadmill that we keep in an upstairs bedroom nearby. Not coincidentally, its display hadn’t changed a bit for several months prior to my early January weigh-in.
A noteworthy observation, perhaps, as we begin this holy season of Lent: If I want to see ‘good news’ when I step on the scale, it certainly helps to settle into a pattern of healthy practices on my exercise machine.
That’s exactly what the Church teaches, I think, in encouraging us to develop habits of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent. We hear a lot about repentance and sin throughout this season – and we need to hear it. We need to be aware of the muck, detritus and debris that can dim the glory of our souls.
But we might need to be just a little careful about the connection we tend to draw… between our holy habits and the forgiveness of our sins. We don’t fast and pray in order to earn God’s mercy. Forgiveness is a gift, already given.
Rather, our Lenten practices are about clearing the ground…to allow new things to emerge in us. The Benedictine John Klassen, abbot of St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota, has written about this dynamic – drawing a parallel to his community’s practice of burning rotating sections of prairie on their grounds.
By mid-summer, the grasses in the prescribed burn area are twice the height of the unburned areas. Why? The burn leaves dark ash that absorbs the sun’s rays. The ash is a nutrient-rich covering, waiting for the first rain to soak it into the ground. Finally, some seeds need heat to crack them open. Burning is the source of renewing energy, and ashes are the result of that burning.
I have seen firsthand how this process of renewal can work: This blog – and its predecessor – began four years ago as a Lenten practice…something ‘new,’ it turned out, that God desired to do in me. I am deeply grateful for that gift…even as I wonder what bright new blessings could flower from my meager acts of self-denial in 2017.
Care to join me on the journey? Let’s explore how ‘less of me’ might come to mean ‘more of God’ in our little corners of the world. Let’s join with the Psalmist in praying,
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
And a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall proclaim your praise!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.