It is the season of Lent, again. Once more we have the opportunity to transform into a truer image of Christ. How do we do that? Recently, I heard a priest say, “Lent is not about giving anything ‘up’. Instead, ‘give in’. Give in to God”. What a wonderful idea.
So, what are we giving in to? Well, most of us say that what we most desire is to draw close to God. However, when we begin to do that we often find the journey gets a little scary. If it truly is God to whom we are drawing, the one thing we can be sure of that God is not what we expect. God often asks us to do things we don’t think we can do. God often asks us to go places we would rather not go, especially places deep inside where we have hidden things. And the truth is that we cannot do this on our own. It is always the Holy Spirit who does the inner work, all we can do is, ‘give in’ and let it all happen in prayer. Depending upon the circumstances it will likely take a lot of time in prayer. So, thankfully we have 40 days, and then the rest of our lives.
Interestingly, it is not about ‘feelings’. The workings of the Holy Spirit do not usually produce a lot of feelings in us. Ruth Burrows, a Carmelite nun, says:
Now, if we really believe that—and we must, surely – if we set aside some time to pray, affirm God’s (or Jesus’) loving presence and offer ourselves to him to do in us all he wants, he will not fail to purify us and gradually transform us as he unites us to himself. How can it matter that we do not feel it is happening?
Prayer is essentially God’s work. Our part is to give time, do our best to keep attention, surrender ourselves as best we can. Then we can be sure that God works. Faith does not ask for signs, for tokens. When we really grasp that prayer is essentially God’s business, not ours, we will never talk of failure in prayer, no matter how unsatisfactory prayer seems to us.
Lent is a time when we could think about “giving in” to God, and letting Him take those hidden pains, memories, scars and festering things and help us to heal. The true sign that the transformation has occurred, Burrows says, is that you are becoming more “selfless”; you think more about others and less about yourself. It might be a painful journey, but usually not as painful as carrying those painful things with us. Let God’s forgiveness, love and understanding transform you into the person He intended.
Reference: Amy Frykholm. ‘Prayer is God’s work: Ruth Burrows, Carmelite sister’ in The Christian century, 22 March 2012 Online: https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2012-03/prayer-god-s-work