Pippa advised me the other day that I looked a little lopsided. In other words, I lean; although, rather like the tower of Pisa, remarkably I usually manage to remain upright. It probably isn’t very noticeable although you will now quite possibly be examining my posture to see the evidence for yourselves.
However, I am encouraged that the Bible encourages us to ‘lean’: to lean not on our own understanding but to lean on God by trusting in Him with all our heart, acknowledging Him in all our ways with an assurance that He will make our paths straight. See Proverbs 3:5-6. Bildad, one of Job’s so-called comforters, accurately reflects that those who leave God out of their lives are putting their faith in something as fragile as a spider’s web. When he or she has to lean – or put their weight - on anything other than God for hope or security it gives way and does not hold. Perhaps Jesus developed this thought in the memorable story of the house built on the rock contrasted with the one built on sand. (Matt 7:24-27).
We know that our trust in God ultimately does not disappoint us even if for this life we face some trials or temptations. Even Jesus of course endured these and for far more than the 40 days which we tend to remember during the season of Lent. Lent is a great opportunity for us to become even more lopsided in the direction of the God who loves us and in Jesus who gave Himself for us – perhaps even to learn to lean for the first time.
Lent begins on March 6th, and it’s an opportunity for us in our spiritual life to do things differently or take something up that freshens up our relationship with Jesus. Let’s look at some potential areas to develop.
Bible reading. Jesus lived His life by the Word of God, often quoting and interpreting Scripture in a way that brought people to faith and made disciples. Maybe this Lent you could do something different: listen to an audio Bible (David Suchet has recordings on an MP3); memorising some key verses; or starting the rhythm of daily reading. As one resource, Steven Croft (bishop of Oxford) has produced a series of reflections on the Beatitudes for Lent. If you would like to order a discounted copy see the sign-up list in the foyer (£2.50 per copy).
Prayer. Jesus said: ‘when you pray’. Perhaps you can find a different time in the day to pray: replace one activity with prayer; or be more mindful of praying in response to the news. It’s about doing something different and swapping one activity for another rather than adding burdens to your day.
Fasting. Not my favourite occupation but it doesn’t have to be food! It could be a technology fast and using the time saved for extra family time or more prayer!
Giving. Jesus also said ‘when you give’. Another Lenten discipline (well, a discipline for life really) is the discipline of simplicity. Is there one thing you could eliminate from your budget during Lent in order to give away the money saved?
Celebration. Maybe we should all celebrate more – it develops the fruit of joy – especially if you are someone whose glass feels half-full most of the time then try cultivating the deliberate act of being thankful in all circumstances and celebrating signs of God’s goodness.
However you mark Lent, may you know the God who lavishes His love upon you, rejoices over you and says to you: ‘you are worth it all’.
Love and prayers, Stephen and Pippa