Strengthen bond with God by clearing out life's clutter


POSTED: Saturday, March 07, 2009

When my family tries to get away for the weekend or even a day, there is always so much to pack: food (always first on the list), plates, napkins, coolers, blankets, towels, sunscreen, swimsuits, change of clothes, toys, books, music ... and on and on. Sometimes our car gets so crammed, it looks like we're moving!

When Jesus was getting away from it all, he did the exact opposite. He left the city and all its comforts behind and entered the wilderness. He didn't even bring any food. His intent was to rely on nothing else than the grace of God, to pray and to renew his spirit for the work to be done in the world.

During Lent, this season before Easter, Christians emulate Christ's 40 days in the wilderness, most often by giving something up, such as a favorite food or hobby, in order to connect with Christ's sacrifice for us. We might give up coffee or fast food or going to the movies. Some people fast and give up a meal once a week or even once a day. Sometimes we take Lent quite seriously and really feel the pain of the sacrifice.

But many times we focus so much on what we are sacrificing we tend to forget why we're doing it in the first place. The Lenten sacrifice is designed to help us to cut out the excess in our lives, to simplify so that we can have more time with God and reconnect with all that is sacred. If we think of it in terms of Jesus' wilderness, then we shouldn't focus on the one thing that is hardest to give up. We should get rid of all that distracts us, all the trappings of our modern world, and enter into the wilderness with Christ.

For the past three years, I have given up television for Lent. It's not always the easiest thing to do, especially when it's the finale of “;Top Chef.”; But it has been a useful discipline, and I've always ended up with more time on my hands than anticipated, which I somehow manage to fill up with work. In other words, I had taken something out of my overstuffed car and then quickly filled it back up. I'm quite sure that's not the purpose of Lent.

What would it mean to give up all technology and live in silence every night until Easter? What would it mean for us to have one day a week during the six weeks of Lent with nothing scheduled, nothing that has to be done except to enjoy the day? What would it mean for us to give up eating out and instead spend time with our kids making dinner and then eating it without rushing?

Make no mistake: These are really hard sacrifices. But it sounds a whole lot more like Lent to me, getting away from it all with an uncluttered car, free to enjoy the view and soak in the glory of God.


The Rev. Amy Wake is associate pastor of First United Methodist Church.