Wednesday, March 12, 2014
When I was in seminary a lifetime ago, one of the courses offered and required was a year of supervised ministry. As students we were placed in various ministry settings. One was a food distribution ministry; another was a half-way house for people working to transition from institutional life back into mainstream living. In addition to the ministry setting, we also met with a faculty advisor who led a group of us in a weekly time of reflection. While my first response was to talk about those I met, our faculty leader, Dr. Hand, was not really interested in that kind of sharing. He wanted me and those in the group to reflect on our feelings, our thoughts, and how the experience was working in our hearts to bring about personal change. As a young seminarian, I remember it to be a difficult process. It was much easier to talk about them instead of me.
It always is that way for us. It is far easier to see the things which need changing in our spouse, our neighbor, our colleague at work, or some different looking or acting member of our community. Seeing what others need to do to change for the better is never a difficult task. Seeing what I need to do is a different matter. God is working in us to bring us to an outward life which reflects the way our heart is being changed by the presence of His Spirit. Sometimes we really put ourselves in the way of that work and make it all but impossible.
These days of Lent can be for us a time to look at how all of this is going in our life. Instead of looking at how someone else is doing in their spiritual journey, these days can become a time for us of looking at our journey of faith. The discipline of self-examination to which Lent calls us invites us to think about how far we have come, where we have made forward movement, where we are still struggling, and why we are where we are. There is no point in worrying about, or trying to figure out someone else. The heart in us which directs our life is more than enough to keep us involved in spiritual work for a long time.