Do you know that awkward feeling when you’re enjoying a meal with someone you like, but you’re not super close with, and suddenly they’re grinning at you? It should be a shared moment of fun, but suddenly it isn’t because they have something stuck in their teeth? Do you tell them and risk embarrassing them or do you pretend not to see it, knowing that when they do see it, they will ask that age-old question, “ how long has that been here?“
To tell or not to tell. That is the question. Many years ago, I was working on verbal with an SAT student, and she had a pencil smudge on her face. It wasn’t a small, errant mark; it was a dark place right in the middle of her forehead. I couldn’t stand it and finally told her. And she very kindly told me it was Ash Wednesday, as if that explained everything. I was raised Baptist, and we didn’t observe Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, or even Lent. So I immediately looked it up. The marking made a lot more sense after I read about it, and I also read that for 40 days of Lent (or pre-Easter), people would give something up. I noticed that people usually gave up sweets or chocolate, something along the lines of “hit them where it hurts.“ It also made it very funny when I overheard a girl say she was giving up weed for Lent.
Today is Ash Wednesday, and this morning I was talking with a friend of mine and she said she was giving up chocolate for Lent. She went on to explain that naturally, she ate buckets of it last night to get prepared. She said what she really should give up for Lent was work. Seems pretty ingenious to me.
Since that’s not possible, it made me think of something else. I have heard tales of people adding something to their lives instead of sacrificing something, and that seemed like a better idea. Then it dawned on me: contemplative prayer. I would add contemplative prayer to my life for Lent.
Almost a year ago I joined a book club of sorts at the church. I joined because it sounded so intriguing. It’s called the Contemplative Prayer Group. I have to admit though that when I started reading the book, I was not a fan. Written by a monk who is so much smarter than I am, it just seemed to complicate everything.
Turns out contemplative prayer is the Christian version of meditation. There. In one sentence I summed up 365 pages of the book. Is this book beneficial? Undeniably. Has it made me think? Most definitely. Do I like it? Not a chance in the world.
For 3+ years, I meditated without missing a single day, and I saw real benefits in my thinking, memory, in my processing, and in many other facets of my life, and then, inexplicably, I got lazy and stopped. So now, at least for the next 40 days I will be adding it back in in the form of contemplative prayer.
I once heard that prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening to God. Heaven knows I do enough talking. Here’s to 40 days of listening.