Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020
It had been a particularly challenging time in my life. I had been in the pastoral role about eight years, and I was serving as the executive pastor of a large suburban church. I was beginning to experience the stress that comes with the demands of ministry in that setting. It then occurred to me that I was experiencing something that was not healthy … depression and anxiety.
As I was struggling to deal with these effects of stress, I had a friend who invited me to read a chapter from Thomas Moore’s book, Care of the Soul. The title of the chapter was “The Gifts of Depression.” In that classic work, Moore, while acknowledging the need to medically treat severe depression, teaches that melancholy can be a time for inner reflection … for contemplation … without fearing what this “inner seeing” might reveal to us.
As an extrovert, I knew this would be hard. I was not into any form of contemplative practice, and I wasn’t sure that my mind would be quiet enough for me to spend that kind of time in silence. I was one who spent my time praying with people while standing beside a hospital bed or hospice bed. I spent time writing pastoral prayers for worship. Only on occasion did I spend time in quiet reflection or contemplation. It was time for me to learn.
What ensued was a time of growth for me. It was a time to reflect … to pray … to listen … to journal and write. It was a time of finally hearing God call me into that secret, quiet space. For the first time in my life, I felt free. Jesus says it is “rewarding,” and I wholly agree. It is liberating to be in that place where God sees me as just me … not for what I do but for who I am.
Thus begins the journey of Lent. Thank you for joining me as we spend some quiet time letting God see us … just as we are!
Lord God, you call us to the quiet place to be centered only on you. May we experience you in the quiet solitude. Amen.