I look at the season of Lent differently than many people. For some, it’s the giving up of chocolate or Facebook or alcohol. For me, it’s something I take one. It’s an intentional focus on my faith walk. Often this takes the form of a new discipline….a habit that brings me closer to God. Several years ago, a group of friends and I dove into a Lenten study together. Two years ago, I turned the radio off in my car. I spent 40+ days driving around town with nothing but the noise of my thoughts and the silence of that empty space. Last year, I reflected each day on a different Bible verse that I had printed out, cut into strips, and drew each morning from my childhood Easter basket. The intentionality of these Lenten verses and the connection to something sentimental from when I was a kid brought me great joy each day as I reflected on the verses and of times in the past.
I have been through a lot of change over the past six months. I am living my life differently and approach my days with a new perspective. I am finally understanding what it means to give my cares, my worries, my frustrations, my struggles . . . my life . . . over to God and completely trusting Him with each moment, with who I am, with where He leads me. My daily Morning Meeting is a new discipline that grounds me in the Word each day, provides space for meditation, and includes structured time for talking to God. This is the very definition of the word ‘discipline,’ something my Lenten journeys have always provided.
“We are silent in the early hours of each day, because God is supposed to have the first word, and we are silent before going to sleep, because to God also belongs the last word.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
But, what about after the Meeting ends? Since returning to work a few weeks ago, it’s so easy for me to be ushered into the busyness of getting ready for the day, leaving the house, becoming immersed in my work, and then when I come up for air, I realize I didn’t think about Him during my day. I didn’t bring God along. I forgot to center my day in thanksgivings to Him. I didn’t call out to Him in times of stress or recognize my gratefulness or pause to be truly present and thank Him for it. This frustrates and saddens me.
My sabbatical taught me that God gives me enough grace for TODAY. He provides me with His strength and love for NOW. God has woken me up. I am more aware of His presence in my life now than ever before. My time in the valley has brought me to my knees and shown me that I can’t make it through each day without His guidance and love and grace. I am physically weak at times. I have moments of mental exhaustion. I have periods of such extreme sadness that I don’t think it will ever end. But, God is so faithful. He has gifted me with new friendships that have blossomed in warp speed. These are relationships centered around our faith, with conversations and texts that don’t involve meaningless chit-chat, but are a sacred space to share verses and quotes and songs and prayers. He has led me to a church where I am fed through the Word and song and confession and communion. I have read books written by others who struggle and I gain wisdom from their strength. One of those books, Radical Gratitude by Ellen Vaughn, provided an ‘ah-ha’ for me. She spoke of ebenezers, of those things that bring reminders of God. I love this term. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. An ebenezer could be an act . . . like walking through a doorway or performing a certain task. It could be a sight or sound or taste or touch. An ebenezer is a way for me to take God with me. It’s my reminder that He is with me throughout my day.
‘Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it, Ebenezer, saying ‘thus far the Lord has helped us.’ ~ 1 Samuel 7:12
So, what is my Lenten discipline this year? It’s to identify my ebenezers and take God with me into my day. Instead of simply beginning and ending my day with Him, I am making room for Him in the in between. I am becoming more intentional of space in my day . . . space to focus on my breath . . . space for gratitude . . . space for peace. Every inhale and exhale can be an ebenezer if I am aware. God gifted me with each breath that I take . . . I’m just beginning to acknowledge each one with gratefulness and thanksgiving.