This past week, our pastor introduced a new way to look at the season of Lent. He encouraged the members of the congregation to give up something if they chose, but he also gave us the opportunity to consider doing something different to commemorate the forty days leading up to Easter. I decided to take up the challenge and committed to engaging in a particular spiritual discipline each week from now until Easter Sunday.
This first week has been spent in solitude and confession. I knew this discipline would be a stretch for me. I live alone and have a great deal of time to myself on the evenings and weekends; as a result, the apartment is very quiet… sometimes too quiet. So if you were to stop by for an unannounced visit, the radio would be streaming from my computer or a movie would be droning on in the background.
Even though I spend a great deal of time to myself, most of that time is filled with background noise just to make the quiet seem not so unbearable. When paired with my busy schedule outside the home, it makes for one action-packed, noisy day. I could be taking the time to pray, engage in God’s Word, or waiting for Him to speak to me, but instead, I am too busy singing along with the radio and distracted by the stories blaring from the local news.
So in order to practice solitude this week, I committed to turning off the TV and radio. I even walked to and from work without my iPod and ear buds. At first, it was uncomfortable to be surrounded by silence, but in time, it became a refreshing change of pace.
I read an article late in the week that resonated with this idea of solitude and getting away to spend time with the Lord. In RCA Today, a publication of my church denomination, Louis Lotz writes about Mary and Martha, two sisters who were present during Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Martha was a doer— busy in the kitchen and constantly serving, wanting everything to be perfect for the Master. But Mary was quiet, prayerful, and reflective— content to sit and learn at Jesus’ feet.
Although the writer of the article asks the reader not to consider whether they are a Martha or Mary, I couldn’t help but put myself in a category. In many ways I am a Martha. Although I am not usually the one in the kitchen serving dinner, I am a doer— organized, focused, motivated, and driven by my commitments. But in many more ways, I think I am a Mary— drawn in by Theology, music, the arts, prayer, and meditation. As the article explains: “All of us are both of them. All of us, male and female, have a double first name, and it is Mary-Martha.”
The article also talks about this action-packed, anxious world, much like I described when I outlined my busy, noisy lifestyle. I was greatly impacted by the danger the writer considers in letting Martha overshadow Mary: “The danger in our active, anxious, achievement-oriented world is that your Mary part will be snuffed out entirely. No time to listen, to think, to read, to pray. No time to be, because there is too much to do.”
In simple terms, I was letting the Mary in me slip away… until I engaged in solitude this past week. I recognized how incredible it felt to simply sit in the quiet of my apartment and engage in communication with Him. I wasn’t always praying or meditating; sometimes I was reading or catching up on emails, but always, I had a listening ear for what He might be trying to say to me.
I don’t know what the coming weeks will bring as I explore the other spiritual disciplines during Lent. But if this week has been any indication, I think I am in a good place— a place where I am open and ready to receive whatever He might bring my way.