By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”—Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG
In the midst of trying times, we are called during Lent to a time of self-examination and reflection. Lent is a time for us to focus on our relationship with God and to take stock of our own spiritual condition.
Several years ago, my car taught me a lesson in self-examination when the maintenance light began to flash. I kept telling myself that I had plenty of time to get my car serviced. Yet I became increasingly overwhelmed and distracted by my responsibilities, and all the while, the maintenance light in the dash continued to flash. I kept going—filling my hours with the stuff of everyday life—until one day the flashing in the dash stopped. It was at that point that I learned my car had come to a breaking point, and a new light in the dash now glared at me—“overdue for maintenance.”
It was in a busy intersection, at the height of rush hour, that my car quit. It stopped running. I could not accelerate. Because of the street’s incline, I had enough momentum to slowly creep through the intersection with a tremendous chorus of honking horns from irritated drivers serenading me.
I can tell you that my levels of anxiety, embarrassment, frustration and impatience were off the charts to say the least. All the while, in my dash the words glared brightly—“overdue for maintenance.”
At times, we speed through life, keeping busy, losing track of time, barely ever getting a second to rest, and we miss out on critical opportunities to check in with ourselves.
As important as it is to remember who we are, it is equally important to remember “whose” we are. When we join together in prayer, we have an opportunity to reconnect with who and whose we are as disciples of Jesus Christ.
One year ago, we began praying together at 7 every morning. None of us knew in March 2020 that we would still be living through a global pandemic coupled with racial unrest and political divisiveness an entire year later. These circumstances have taken a toll on us both literally and emotionally. Our routines have been disrupted over and over again, and we still have legitimate concern for our health and the well-being of those whom we love.
Friends, prayer is powerful. When our hearts and minds are engaged in a prayerful focus, we begin to see situations from the perspective of hope. There is no magic that erases our anxiety and overwhelm, but in the midst of it all, a life of prayer shifts our perspective from a spirit of despair toward a spirit of hope.
We truly trust in God’s promises for our lives.
Even now—especially now—we have the opportunity to be for someone the Gospel that they may never otherwise hear. As United Methodist sisters and brothers, we continue our kingdom work to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, sustained by hope and our faith in God’s promises. We know that in order to offer our gifts in service to others, we must make self-examination and self-care priorities.
Throughout this Lenten season, may our focus turn away from fear and turn toward trusting God—our rock, our hope and our refuge. As followers of Christ, let us be committed in our study and prayer to the essential work of self-examination and reflection.
Pay attention to that “maintenance light,” and don’t ignore yourself until you are “overdue.” Take the time to dig into who you are and whose you are so that you can live on purpose for the sake of Christ in this world.