The Lord gifted me with some actual quiet time this morning. I set my alarm another 40 minutes earlier and went to be last night praying that it would make a difference and that I would actually be able to get up. Not gonna lie, I still snoozed for 15 minutes, but I was able to get out of bed and be ready to be still a whole 30 minutes earlier than usual. As I sat down at my desk, I bowed my head and braced myself for the usual whine from the other end of the house, usually something to do with needing to go potty, a dropped stuffed animal, or just a blatant plea to get out of bed and watch Curious George.
But it didn't come.
I spoke to God about how I have felt like I am chasing the wind. All around me are things that are good things - tasks around the house, things on my to-do list at work (where I work for a ministry!), getting into an exercise routine again, spending quiet time in the Word, being intentional with my marriage, meal prepping so I don't make bad food choices, goof-off time with my kids, putting away the stacks of laundry piled up in my room. All good things. But no matter how hard or fast I run after these things, I feel like they are always just out of my reach. I stretch to my limit, but my fingertips barely graze the surface before I have to pull back and I am left exhausted by the effort. As I explained this out loud, the Lord gave me the image of the vine and the branches and I realized how silly it is of me to keep trying to do all these things apart from Him. His Word makes it clear that without the vine, the branch can do nothing. Why should I think that I would be any different?
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. As a gal from a Protestant background, observation of Lent has never really been on my radar screen. Growing up, I would remember my Catholic classmates giving up chocolate or swearing for Lent and quite frankly I thought it was stupid. How is not saying the f-word for a month and a half going to help you think about Jesus?
Taking advantage of this peaceful time the Lord had provided me in the dark, I fired up my computer and went to the first day of the Lent study with She Reads Truth. I had fallen behind of late and missed practically the whole study on Esther, so I was already struggling with the guilt of that. I was tired from the running, repentant of my pride in wanting to do it all by my own strength.
Lent is a pause button.
My heart dang near stopped as I read those words and I immediately wrote them down in my journal. I read on about how Lent is a quiet time unlike any other time of the year, a time to stop the running from God and pause to face the reality of our sin and why we need to pause, turn around, and go toward him.
Lent is a pause button.
The Lord was giving me a clear message that it was time to pause, to take a moment to just ignore all the laundry piled around me, the unmade bed, the growing to-do list. Turn off the Facebook notifications, worry about email later. The house was quiet and He called me to do the same.
Push pause, daughter. Can you hear me?
There have been many times when Evan and I have been watching a show in the living room and we suddenly hear a sound that stands out, that doesn't quite belong. We look at one another for a moment and know that the only way to really hear that sound clearly is to push pause on the TV. The second we do, we can hear our son's voice calling out for a bathroom break or perhaps crying from a bad dream. Whatever the circumstance, we can't fully understand the message if it is being drowned out by the background noise.
Lent is a pause button.
I realized that Lent isn't just about choosing something to abstain from so others will know you are super-religious. I understood that, just like everything else, we have screwed up something that the Lord has provided for us as a way to draw us closer to him. I have seen so many people see Lent as a challenge, an opportunity to show how disciplined and righteous they are for being able to go 40-something days without eating a cheeseburger. This isn't what God intended for this season to be.
Lent is that opportunity to quiet the background noise so we can listen closely to the still small voice of the Spirit, reminding us of our need for a Savior. The study I read this morning pointed to Genesis 3:19b - "For you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
What can dust do? A whole lot of nothing, that's what.
I doubt I'll do the whole "I'm giving up _____ for Lent" thing, but I am grateful that the Lord opened my eyes this morning to this chance to pause. When I am tempted to open Facebook before I open the Word, my prayer is that I will remember to push pause. In this season of Lent, my prayer is that the Lord will help me to honestly identify what noise I have been allowing to deafen His voice and to help me push pause and lean in to listen to Him.