It’s been a busy week around here. Much has happened.
Henry David Thoreau said, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” That sounds nice. And perhaps it’s true. Still, it’s a gamble. Discovering oneself overcome by busyness, both reflection and recalibration are probably needed. Socrates knew as much, which is why he mused, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” In other words, just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re doing anything genuinely worthwhile or productive.
My wife, Jennifer, has been treating Madeline and Evelyn to episodes of “I Love Lucy.” I’ve missed out. Why? Because I’ve been too busy. It’s likely Lucille Ball would understand my reason. She allegedly said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.” She was describing momentum. Right now, my studies require incredible momentum, the kind that must be established and maintained. I’m capable of multitasking, and yet, I’ve noticed that if I slow down, get distracted, or become busy with something other than the reading and writing at hand, I get frustrated and produce less in almost every task across the board. For the record, I wrote a little more than seventy single-space pages of material this past week. That number doesn’t include two sermons, an editorial, or even this eNews, for that matter.
In your way, it’s likely you know what I’m describing. When you’re on a roll, things come more easily. Yardwork, remodeling, paperwork, you name it. Pace is important. It’s getting into the rhythm that’s hardest. For example, it’s no secret I despise exercising. If slamming my head in a door and walking on a treadmill both produced the same health results, I’d choose the door-slamming. But since I’m pretty sure head trauma burns far fewer calories than walking, the treadmill it must be. Even so, making my way to the treadmill is like walking the Green Mile. And once I get to the dreadful torture device, the sixty seconds it takes to put on my walking shoes, climb aboard, and then press the start button is nothing short of an Olympic-sized chore.
But once I get going—once momentum is built and I meet a reasonable stride—an hour on the treadmill seems like nothing. In fact, I discover I’m energized enough for a quick go at pushups, sit-ups, and planks. In other words, I find the strength for other things, not to mention my body feels better, and because I didn’t choose the head-slamming method, my skull is unbruised and pain-free.
I suppose one reason I’m sharing these rambling thoughts this morning is that we’re at the edge of Lent. Being more or less literarily exhausted by this past week, I’ll keep this shorter than usual, offering two things to consider.
Firstly, thinking Christologically and devotionally, Lent is a penitential time—a time for reflection, fasting, and spiritual recalibration. Its solemn color—the deepest violet—is a clue to this. Solemnity can influence. It can steer. By Lent’s prodding, one can find a way back into a healthy regimen of corporate worship, Bible study, and devotional self-care. If you’ve fallen prey to worldly busyness that leaves little time or energy for the God who loves you, Lent can be good for you. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the six weeks that follow will involve a spiritual “exercising” of sorts. The human heart and mind will be immersed in what Saint Paul calls “the word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18) in ways relatively unmatched by the rest of the Church Year. And as the routine progresses from one week to the next, momentum builds until finally meeting its stride in Holy Week and the Triduum—the great “Three Days” of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter. It’s there a Christian realizes (if he or she hasn’t already) the great goodness to be had by a seemingly dreadful regimen—the cross’s dripping mess; a bludgeoned, bloody, and weakened Savior pinned to its gibbet; a terrible black sky palling the whole scene, leaving one to wonder if anything Christ said and did produced anything of value. Indeed, Easter’s stride says, “Absolutely! Everything He said was true! His resurrection is proof. By the power of the Holy Spirit through this Gospel, I have the strength to go on—to flex the muscle of Christ’s divine love until my last breath!”
Secondly, while the word “Lent” might carry some gloomier baggage for many, it’s actually a word of hope. Its root is an Old English word meaning “springtime.” Its Dutch and German crossovers mean “longer days.” In other words, inherent to Lent’s momentum is not necessarily a spiritual drudging through misery. Instead, its heart is set on counting down to the perpetually sunlit springtime of new life. Again, Easter—the festival day that proves the promise of heaven will be the longest, most wonderful summer day for all who believe in Jesus, the One who conquered the eternal night of Death on the cross!
And so, my point is twofold. Firstly, take advantage of Lent. Use its regimented traditions of fasting to your benefit. Let them help you build momentum toward a steady stride of faithfulness for the rest of the year. And secondly, do this knowing that even as building momentum may be challenging, remember your goal and then be blessed by its stride. The longer days, blossoming trees, bright-beaming sun filling pleasant days—all these things are hints to the world to come, and Lent and Easter display the scene magnificently.