Monday, March 14, 2011

Lenten Peace

“Peace, peace, to the far and to the near says the Lord.” (Isaiah 57:19)

The world spins and crashes even as Lent calls us to breathe deeply, take this season slow. But earthquakes, tsunamis, riots, protests and nuclear meltdowns, not to mention the individual dramas of our lives that will never make headlines, do not concede us the time for breath, for reflection, for peace.

This may be the reason Jesus went into the desert. The harshness of the Judean desert brings a stillness that even two thousand years ago could not be found in daily life. And so for a moment we are asked to seek our own desert, our own place of peace.

A friend of mine struggles as she tries to enjoy a sabbatical year. Unable to relax, to spend time at peace, she drives herself to stay busy, to remain involved, to stretch herself. We all do this perhaps. Idleness can bring guilt, unrest. But stretching ourselves is dangerous on a continuous basis. Even elastics snap.

I suspect that few people reading this will be able to take forty days for contemplation, and even fewer can afford a sabbatical year. It isn’t necessary. It isn’t required. None of us are burdened with the salvation of the world. And yet, together, collectively, all of us share some responsibility for it.

If we are to feed our world, if we are to be there for our neighbour and for the distant stranger in the crises that inevitably come, we must allow time for thought, meditation, even prayer. We must divest ourselves of the guilt that forbids us to spend a moment in that empty space where nothing is a barrier to our God.

It is true, our reflections during lent should lead us to action, just as Jesus’ time away prepared him for his role in the world. They may lead us to cry out for justice with the people of Wisconsin or Libya. They may lead us to reach out in solidarity with the people of Japan. They may lead us to speak out for truth in our own nation. They may lead us to kindnesses within our own families and communities.

But action without thought, without preparation, can often do as much harm as good. Continued frenzied action that prevents time for laughter, games, quiet and prayer, is action that if nothing else, will eventually harm the soul.

So I invite you this lent, to claim that quiet space in your life. Find your peace, find yourself, find your God.

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