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Lenten Post by Christian, “A Closer Walk…”

It’s always a little mind-boggling to me to think about how we experience time differently based on our point of reference.  In reflecting upon the past year, it seems like time has slowed to a crawl, but still, so much has happened.  Just over one year ago, I was leading Ash Wednesday services at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity and at College Park Baptist Church, leading congregational songs in community worship and physically imposing ashes on people’s foreheads.  Today, I write from home, where I’ve stayed for the better part of the last year as I’ve learned how to worship online, graduated from divinity school, excitedly accepted a call to a new church community, helped Juliette (my older daughter) start Kindergarten virtually as River (my younger daughter) has started going to preschool, begun teaching in a new university position, and done my best to keep myself and my family healthy as a deadly pandemic has changed the nature of reality for all of us. 

As the world has seemed to slow down over the past year, our lives continue to cruise along.  It seems that staying physically isolated has somehow made me busier mentally, and while I am extremely grateful that my family and I have remained physically healthy, I know that my spiritual life has also been “busy.”  If I’m being honest, for me, this pandemic has brought on some intense feelings of inner anxiety and disconnection that have led me to become mentally and spiritually distracted quite easily.  It feels like time kind of just stopped last March, and yet here we are a year later and everything has changed.

I understand Lent to be a time when we contemplate and act upon ways to walk more closely with Christ.  As we focus on self-care this Lenten season, I’ve realized that if I want to have that closer walk, first I need to simply sit and be still.  I’ve always kept up a daily exercise routine as a way of caring for myself, and even though these runs, bike rides, and workouts allow me time to be alone out in nature with my thoughts, they also require me to keep going, going, going… To get back to a place of inner calm that allows me to experience time as bursting with creative potential where anything is possible – the “eternal now” of the present moment – I need to first be still enough to open myself to that experience.

To that end, I’ve recommitted to a daily practice of centering prayer – a time of quieting the inner noise so that in my physical isolation, I might reconnect with the ground my being and experience a deeper relationship – a closer walk – with Christ.  I know from my own experience, and an abundance of research tells us, that taking even 10 minutes a day to walk with Christ by sitting still transforms the mind and alters our experience of time.  As time continues to move along, I simply need to slow myself down and accept Jesus’ invitation to rest (Matt. 11:28-30) in order to experience the fullness of the present moment.  I am excited to recommit to this practice, as I know it will bring me closer to the heart and mind of Christ, which of course will affect all of my other relationships and my entire reality.

As the world has slowed down around us, have you taken time to quiet your busy mind?  In what ways do you think you might benefit from a few minutes of scheduled inner peace?  Is there a contemplative practice you’d like to try, or might it be easier to commit to simply closing your eyes and breathing deeply for a moment – like, right now?  As we move through Lent and prepare for a post-pandemic world in which our schedules will again be upended and our perception of time altered, let us remember the importance of being still.  I pray that finding this spiritual rest might restore us to walk more closely with Christ and fully participate in the infinite potential of the present moment as we work to bring about God’s reign on earth.

Christian McIvor