A couple of months ago, I decided to observe Lent by giving time every day to the consideration of the day of my death. I had hoped, thereby, to prepare my heart for the wonder of the Easter season, knowing that the soul which does not embrace the reality of death is unable to fully grasp the wonder of life – much less, resurrection life.
It was more challenging than I expected.
The daily grind wore down my resolve quickly. I discovered, again for the first time, how difficult it is to be where I am, and to pay attention to what is needful in the moment. I am distracted by trivial things – tasks to be done some other time or not at all, inane questions come and gone without answer, curiosity piqued but not long enough to be satisfied… so it goes, day after day after day. And then there are the endless streams of must-sees on social media – videos that promise a tear or a life-change or a moment’s laughter – articles exposing the shenanigans of Washington or Wall Street – the latest exposé out of Hollywood. And, perhaps most sadly, the vicious takedowns of disciples of Jesus by other disciples of Jesus who have apparently concluded that the former are a menace to the Kingdom and must be shamed for all their ostensible embrace of heresy.
I discovered that it takes a lot of energy to pay attention.
What was happening around me seemed always more interesting than what was happening in me. No wonder conforming is easier than transforming. An idea, even a good one, has little chance against a ringing bell. A thought, not yet formed to idea, even less. I suppose that someday I will have gotten good enough at paying attention that the distractions will not be so distracting. But, until then, I am thinking that silence around is the best environment to hear the silence within.
This would suggest that absence is the best preparation for presence – that separation is necessary for engagement – that distance makes way for intimacy. It is only in being still, that we will come to know.