As pilgrims on our journey leading to Holy Week and Great and Holy Pascha, spiritual choruses summon us to slow down our normally busy daily activities. They remind us that if we wish to participate in the fullness of the lenten spring underway, we are required to lay aside ordinary and non-essential cares of life and replace them with a passageway whose purpose – our spiritual renewal – strengthens our relationship with God. It enables us to hear His Spirit within us and heed His guidance on how to share His love and mercy with those He places in our path. Not only are we transfigured in God’s likeness, we more fully recognize the ultimate joy and peace of mind as mutual partakers of His Kingdom on earth, now, and until the ages of ages to come in Heaven. Amen!
When we commit ourselves to the lenten disciplines set before us, we uncover additional time and energy that we never recognized were available… We are freed to pray and worship with our spiritual family in special lenten services. We find quiet moments to read and reflect on Holy Scripture. Family discussions on how to fast and its benefits can help us gain control over our impulses. Opportunities to offer our love and support for those in need become the charitable means of thanking God for His mercy and blessings.
In exchanging non-important and time consuming routines with the heavenly pursuit of self-reflection, repentance, and reconciliation, we discern and claim the eternally life-giving gifts God’s Spirit is hoping we will make routine in our lives both now and well beyond our lenten journey.
During this season, may we be blessed to cling to God and follow Him closer than we thought possible. Let us consider the ensuing struggles to gain spiritual mastery has added benefits. They strengthen our relationships both with God and with one another. They change our outlook on how we engage with Him, our family, friends, co-workers, and strangers.
To help us focus on searching and preserving our future crowns of victory, consider the following guidelines that support healthy and balanced spiritual relationships:
- Let us remember that our ideas of entitlement should never outweigh our ideas of responsibility.
- Let us not allow our feelings to control our actions. Our Christian faith and values will control our feelings. Who we are is not how we feel, but what we value.
- Let us remember that we are more than our feelings – we are primarily spiritually valuable persons, with the remarkable abilities to think, choose, and feel.
- Let us choose positive, responsible, and productive behaviors in every situation, regardless of how we are feeling. Those choosing abilities are built within us.
- Let us remember that focusing on our negative memories guarantees to distort and derail our lives and to excuse our self-indulgent behavior.
- Our egos can be self-indulgent, fearful, and defensive. Our spirit is the positive expression of who we are. Our spirit honors others, as well as ourselves.
- Let us remember our ego can blame, complain, attack, withhold, deceive, manipulate, intimidate, deprive, exclude, judge, exploit, offend, reject, threaten, ignore, envy, resist, damage, dominate, discredit, defend, boast, and deny responsibility.
- Let us remember that our spirit loves, encourages, forgives, honors, shares, heals, cares, includes, accommodates, commits, listens, accepts, respects, communicates, reassures, comforts, seeks to understand, is fair, gentle, kind, and expresses gratitude.
- Let us daily seek God’s guidance to help us renew and re-focus our mind and actions toward deliberate choices that are health-producing, responsible, intelligent, loving, honorable, uplifting, solution-focused, self-esteem building, and enjoyable as we seek to serve our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ!*
Just as St. Paul prayed in his Epistle (letter) to the Philippians, I ask God to grant us peace and healing as we journey together to make stronger our relationships with God and with one another:
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)
I end with a note of thanksgiving: “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the Word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s Word, which is also at work in you believers.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Amen!
*Nine bullet points adapted from Feeling Fooled (How To Stop Letting Negative Emotions Wreck Your Life), by Orv Nease, Ph.D., MFT, Xulon Press, 2001, pp. 50-51.