As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? Psalm 42:1-2
There exists within each of us a “God-shaped” hole—a place of emptiness and deep longing that cannot be filled by riches, power or success. It cannot be filled through the love of family, friend or neighbor. Yet, most often we find ourselves chasing after illusive dreams and false gods. Unconsciously we believe these false gods will take away the emptiness, longing, or ache within. Yet none other than God can relieve our emptiness, longing and deep internal ache. If our strivings for fame, fortune or love don’t temporarily relieve our loneliness we may turn to drugs, alcohol, work, food, gambling, computers, etc. to distract ourselves from the emptiness we feel. Each of these distractions may provide temporary relief from our suffering, but over time they do damage to our bodies, our relationships and our spiritual lives. However, without these distractions we are left with our emptiness and with the fear that life has nothing more to offer.
We may fear loosing ourselves in the abyss of emptiness we only infrequently allow ourselves to touch. Yet, if we muster the courage and the faith to ask God’s guidance as we journey into our places of darkness, pain and chaos we may be surprised by the gift of grace that fills the “God-shaped” (w)hole within and leads us to new life.
Spiritually speaking this is what Lent is about…journeying with Christ to the cross, experiencing the death of false hopes and dreams and finding new life in him. Each time we walk this path we are reminded that God is there to fill the hole. And each time we have this experience our faith and trust in God’s unconditional love can be renewed and deepened.
This Lenten season I invite you to engage in a discipline that will support your journey to the cross and new life in Christ. The following are some suggestions that may get you started:
1. Begin, renew or deepen your current life of prayer (This may include a
movement from discursive prayer to a new prayer form such as contemplative prayer, journaling, body prayer, Lectio Divina—reading and meditating on scripture verses, etc.)
2. Commit to reading and reflecting upon a pamphlet of daily Lenten devotions.
3. Engage in one or more spiritual retreat days—you may do this by going to the beach or the mountains, you may choose a retreat center such as the Cedars, Menucha or the Franciscan Renewal Center or you may decide to remain in the quiet of your own home. During this time make special efforts to hear the deepest desire of your heart and listen for God’s guidance in response to your need. Be willing, like Jacob, to wrestle with angels as your seek to determine what will bring you new life in Christ.
4. Commit to doing some form of spiritual reading during the Lenten season. Suggestions include:
The Cost of Discipleship by Deitrich Bonhoffer
Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen
The Return of the Prodigal Son also by Henri Nouwen
Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God translated by A. Barrows and M. Macy
Seeds of Peace: Contemplation and Non-Violence by W. H. Shannon
May you know the sacred presence and guiding hand of our Lord this Lenten season.