In the busyness of my day I often feel as though I am surrounded by an almost overwhelming barrage of noise, emails ping into my phone, news screams relentlessly from the TV box, opinions shout over opinions (and by the way I find opinions extremely boring!) screams and shouts assert that aggression is the only way to be in the world, judgement is beating grace at every corner of the day, screeching tyres remind me that no one has time for anything let alone for waiting, being, attending to the moment.
If I wake early, before the boys and before the birds, if I resist reaching for my phone and leave the macbook closed, If I simply pause and open my bible I am always left with one competing noise, the long slow humm of passing traffic, it simply will not go away.
We often think of lent as our taking time to be with God, yet in the story of scripture from which the practice of lent derives that is not quite the case. Jesus moves into a wilderness place and in that place he first meets those voices which so fundamentally desire to pull him away from the true purpose of his life. These are not the day to day distractions of the crowds these are the deep yearning distractions of the soul.
Sometimes we search for the greater way of being without first attending to the voices which make such things so difficult. Fighting the distractions of the crowds neither makes the voices go away nor diminishes their power it simply sustains the illusion of religion. Churches appear ‘busy’ doing ‘good things’ because busyness has become a virtue and we have become addicted to the ‘good’ meanwhile there are voices at work far, far deeper in our way of being and they make a mockery of all good intentions. It is the mode of being which makes it possible for churches to sing praise in worship and then tear each other apart over coffee, it is the mode of being which hears and receives good news but then politely refuses to share that news with others.
Lent requires courage, courage to hear the voices which really pull at our lives. Not the distractions of the crowds those are minor things, but the real voices which prey on our weaknesses and offer us the age old satisfaction of security.
May we be brave this lent, brave enough to hear the voices, to acknowledge their power and temptation for only in doing so will we find even the faintest possibility of our belonging to a greater way of being. Only when we face down our humanity might we begin the possibility of living by faith.