Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a season where Christians pray, fast and give alms. Ash on the forehead helps us “Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return.”
I was struck by a meditation this morning, to imagine that this Lenten journey is as if I was going up to the space station. I have a mission to perform during my time in the space station. The range of daily activities are limited (no retail therapy, no mindless screen watching). The choice of nutrition is limited, and thus, appetites do not roam large and free. There is plenty of distraction-free time for contemplation and prayer, for the inner self, the spirit and soul. The view from the space station is spectacular. One cannot help but ponder on one’s life/purpose in the broad sweep of the beauty and majesty of God’s creation.
Let me pause and re-read what I just wrote. Corralling one’s appetite is a good thing, health-wise and discipline-wise. Fasting also helps one empathize with the hungry. Which of the two is more needed in my current Lenten journey?
Distraction-free time. What a novel concept. When children play, that’s distraction-free time. Their entire focus, energy and attention is in their play. Drinking coffee while driving or walking is fairly common among Americans. The French culture is such that people sit and drink their coffee. They will converse with their companions or people-watch as they sip their coffee. Which would be a more intrinsically rewarding experience? With this realization, it was easy to decide to disconnect totally from Social Media during Lent. The immediate benefits are time saved, freedom and inner peace to channel one’s thoughts and focus. Not to be distracted by Social Media chatter that can linger past their expiry dates in one’s mind. In addition, to really be present in the moment at hand.
Right now, for me, praying and spiritual reading go hand in hand. It’s like the Yin and Yang. The spiritual reading lends new spiritual insights, which in turn, leads to prayers that supplement those memorized. To illustrate, I recently completed Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. Since Bro Lawrence took 4 years to achieve this state of presence, I will probably have to learn to crawl and just cultivate a discipline of conversing with God multiple times and throughout the day. And seeking more of His Presence.
Everyone’s Lenten journey and focus will be different and unique to said individual’s need. It’s easy to regard this year’s Lenten journey in isolation, but it’s really connected to a string of previous Lenten journeys. Thus, the sacrifices may be the same if one continues to struggle in that area. On the other hand, the Lenten focus may be progressively building on what was achieved and experienced in previous years.
There is no success or failure with a Lenten journey. It’s a journey.