He must increase, I must decrease – what I’m doing for Lent this year #notbusy

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Me on Ash WednesdayI kind of like Ash Wednesday. It is so healthy (and counter-cultural) to be reminded of one’s mortality. I went to mass at 9.30 today and had ash marked in the sign of the cross on my forehead. This was the first time I’ve been to a morning service on Ash Wednesday and I consequently went into Leeds city centre rather self-consciously with an ash smear on my face! This was a good act of humility. Exactly what it should be.

For Lent this year, as usual I am taking part in the Big Read over at the Big Bible Project. This year we’re reading Rowan Williams’ book ‘The Lion’s World’ (his reflections on the Narnia books) together – if your church house group hasn’t got any plans for Lent there are ready made excellent free materials available!

For my own personal discipline and devotion I am taking part in the ‘give up busyness for Lent’ campaign. This coincided with a discussion I had with my spiritual director on how I can keep my own spiritual life alive in the context of theological college (where corporate prayer times are set for us each day it can feel hard to incorporate personal prayer). I decided that taking a period of silence and inactivity each day would be a great way to pray. The ‘Not busy’ campaign highlights the value of this well:

Busyness has become a disease.

The developed world is suffering from an epidemic of major proportions, and the disease at the heart of it is busyness.

We are addicted to doing one thing after another with as little down-time as possible. This is a sickness, a spiritual sickness.

Time is more precious than chocolate.

Time is so precious because . . .

  • It can’t be stored or managed
  • The longer you live the faster time ebbs away
  • You only live once
  • It’s a gift

Lent is the time to take up a spiritual discipline which reflects Jesus’ 40-days and nights in the wilderness. Whatever else we can say about Jesus’ time there, we know he was definitely not busy. So why not take a leaf out of his book and find a way to cast busyness aside?

Stephen Cherry (the man behind the campaign) is quite right when he says that busyness is a disease. Funnily enough, just as I was reading up on the book of Proverbs for an essay I found this quotation:

‘we suffer from acute over-busyness – and worse, we are proud of our busyness’

Very sadly, the Church is one of the places where this is only too true. So this Lent I am going to:

  • set aside time for silence and inactivity every day (minimum 10 minutes)
  • eat breakfast each day in silence (a group of us are doing this in college)
  • not check my phone until after 9am each day

I need to do this because I need to be reminded that it’s not all about me! I am good at thinking most things are about me – including prayer. I was struck again by the words of John the baptist in a reading we had yesterday where he refers to Jesus:

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

I hope you have a holy, surprising and blessed Lent. See you on the other side!

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