It is amazing to me sometimes how the Lord enters our lives and makes us aware of his love for us, and of the purpose and deeper meaning of our lives.
When I came to the office this morning, I was feeling tired and, to be honest with you, a little bit out of sorts. Grumpy. Itchy. I don’t think anyone else would notice, but I did, and didn’t much care for the feeling.
Then I started to write and noticed how very quiet it was in the office — especially and unusually quiet. I like that because I find it much easier to write when it is quiet than I do when there is a buzz in the air. But, I appreciated the moment the more because it reminded me clearly and strongly that I have not been careful or generous enough this Advent to make the time I know I need for prayer and thought about the great themes of this holy season.
I am deeply grateful for the peaceful quiet. It was in and through that moment of peace that the Lord reminded me — in a way more gentle than I deserved — that I had not been attending sufficiently to the deeper things, the realities that help us to appreciate the meaning of life’s daily events, to grasp the significance of their rhythms and unfolding patterns.
The experience left me with a desire to respond to that awareness by being more careful about how I use my time. It’s OK to do things; it’s not so great if the doing keeps you from going to the heart of the matter. And, I have not been going to the heart of the matter as I should. In essence, that means recommitting to patterns of prayer and other spiritual exercises that I know are helpful in keeping me rooted in the Lord.
I share this experience with you not because I am proud of my delinquency but because I am grateful, deeply so, for the Lord’s patience and understanding with my careless ways. I mention it also because it speaks to the theme of spiritual renewal of which we are all so conscious these days. It reminds us that holiness and spiritual growth are God’s gifts to us. They are neither the fruit of our effort nor rewards for our achievement. Rather, God calls and invites us to respond — even supplying the grace to respond.
Another way of saying it is that holiness and spiritual growth are not rooted in our compliance to a set of rules. Rather, they are rooted in a personal relationship with the Lord who invites us to respond by loving as he loved, serving as he served. There is a big difference between the two ways of living our lives.
As we anticipate the formal beginning of our initiative toward spiritual renewal during Lent, I invite you to prayer and thought about what spiritual growth or renewal might mean to you, and to our communities.
Some questions that you might be interested in thinking about: How would I like to grow in the months ahead? What disposition, attitudes, practices leave me feeling more alive and eager to share what I have with others? Can I identify similar elements that leave me discouraged, disgruntled or frustrated?
If such questions are helpful, fine. The important thing is for you (all of us) to be in touch with our own hearts, to find God’s spark so that we can fan it into flame, to find the obstacles to growth so that we can hold them up and ask the Lord to touch them.
Peace to all.