This season, I am loving Ann Garrido‘s Lenten devotional “The Living Gospel” from Ave Maria Press. We’re only five days in, of course, but so far each pithy, insightful observation by the author of Redeeming Conflict and Redeeming Administration has kept me ruminating all day.
On this first Sunday of Lent, Ann wrote about the fact that “These Forty Days of Lent” aren’t actually forty days (go ahead, do the math). Forty is more of a symbolic number. I knew that the biblical forty generally stands for “a really long time” (think of the Israelites’ forty years in the desert, or Jesus’ forty days in the desert, or the forty days from Easter to Ascension). But Ann took it a step farther, explaining that the number forty in the Bible represents “the length of time it takes for a change to be complete and something new to begin.”
Then, at St. Vincent’s this morning, Fr. Tom McKenna preached about “disruption” as a necessary ingredient in change. When the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, he suggested, it was more of a “divine shove” than a gentle invitation.
This makes sense to me. Change does not come easily to most of us. Often we are pushed into circumstances not of our choosing: the disruption of illness, or trauma, or other external life change. The internal change (spiritual growth) follows after, if we can open ourselves to the invitation buried in the disruption. Only then can something new begin.
For many years now, I’ve been encouraging people to “lean into life” during Lent. “Choose your sacrifices” I say, “but draw close to God in the sacrifices life chooses for you.” This year, I want to pay attention to disruption: the things that break in and get my attention against my will. What is God inviting me to through them? How am I being called to change? And how long will my forty days be?
The concept of change is something I am itching to explore in a next book (#2 or #3, I’m still not sure). How have I changed over the years? What made lasting change possible? Now that I’m less than two weeks out from my editing deadline for Finding God in Ordinary Time, I have this fantasy of having time to re-read the dozens of journals I’ve kept over the years, tracing the origins of what eventually became my firmly held spiritual beliefs. We shall see.
For now, I just want to keep leaning into life, being present to the demands and disruptions of each day, and marveling at the goodness of God–and other people–in the midst of it all.
And speaking of the goodness of other people . . . thank you to everyone who weighed in last week on my chapter title. I chose “Finding God in an Outstretched Hand,” in part for the ambiguity of it. Whose hand are we talking about here? That of a beggar at the Basilica, or my own? Or the reader’s? Thank you to Ann-Therese Ortiz (old friend, spiritual director, and generally wise woman) for the suggestion. I can’t wait to inscribe your book!
Blessings to all in this holy season. May each of your ordinary days be extraordinarily blessed!