The Next 40 Days

Today marks the first day of my favored season of the church calendar – the 40 days leading up to Easter – Lent. Growing up Baptist, Lent was not something my family observed and it wasn’t until attending an Anglican church during our years in Kenya that I came to embrace and appreciate the practice of preparing for Easter and the passion of Christ through 4o days of simple living and a renewed sense of self-examination. Each year Lent provides me the opportunity to take a long, loving look at my life in order to recognize how I have wandered away from God’s love, grace, compassion, and forgiveness. It is a chance once again to return home.

You see, this year, more so than in recent years, I hunger for quiet. The noise of 2016 has yet to fade and I long to rid myself of the divisiveness I have allowed in my own life. I have grown weary of being ‘against’ so many things, leading only to confusion and misunderstanding. More than ever I long to be ‘for’ . . . for peace, for grace, for justice, for love. I long to speak out ‘for’ the things that promote equity and impartiality for all of God’s creatures.

Tonight as I sat in the midst of fellow worshipers and prayed from the Book of Common Prayer, the words spoke anew as if written moments ago rather than hundreds of years prior. The words challenged me to look at these next 40 days as a chance to rid myself of those things that hold me down and  instead seek calm and silence. Rather than give up wine or chocolate or Facebook (although I could stand to get rid of them all), this year I hope to take on being aware of all I can stand for.

Litany of Penitence from the Book of Common Prayer

Reflections from Sheila

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives . . .

          I am so impatient, with my husband and son and coworkers and bad drivers and people who don’t vote the way I do. I confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people . . .

          How often do I take advantage of others, waiting for my turn to speak rather than listening with my whole heart? I confess to you, Lord

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves . . .

          How jealous and envious I am of parents whose kids are “perfect” and people with bigger bank accounts and women who seem to always have it together. I confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work . . .

           How easily my eyes rest on things that don’t last and how often I look for short cuts. I confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us . . .

           Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. My daily rush causes me to forget You, the one who made me. I confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty . . .

          Wrong; I’m so often wrong. I look the other way far too often, ignoring needs that are right under my nose, worrying about what others think instead of laying it all on the line in order to stand up for the vulnerable and underserved. Accept my repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us . . .

          Contempt; what an ugly word. Disdain for those who aren’t like me, forgetting that You made us all in Your image. Accept my repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us . . .

       How can I be more aware of Your creation, this amazing planet You have allowed us to inhabit for a small moment in time? How can I support those working towards guarding our natural resources rather than taking them for granted through overuse and neglect? Accept my repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us . . .

       Thank You for this next 40 days. Restore me. Make me aware. Fill me with life. Hear me, for Your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation, that we may show forth your glory in the world.


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7 Responses to The Next 40 Days

  1. ilinke

    I feel the exact same way about the more recent events in our country and it’s difficult to look past the anger and disappointment. I want to make what you wrote my new mantra. “More than ever I long to be ‘for’ . . . for peace, for grace, for justice, for love.”
    Beautifully written…

  2. Mary Beth Martin

    Thanks, as always, Sheila, for opening your beautiful and humble heart to share the joys and challenges of living as a child of God in our complex world. I, too, love this prayer. And now more than ever. Peace, friend.

  3. Marjorie Veatch

    Amen. Even though I don’t celebrate Lent.☺ convicting reminders.

  4. Patricia Springfield

    Thanks Sheila,
    In many ways, your words help me, who cannot express myself so beautifully and outwardly, realize what my heart is trying to say.

  5. Fr. Ken Herzog

    Thank you, Sheila. Thank you, Jesus, for reminding us of our brokenness and the Source of healing. Confessing our sins is the first step toward healing. I share these 40 days with you and the Christian world.

    Fr. Ken Herzog

  6. Carol Hochhalter

    I read this more than a week late, but it is still so timely! I love the season of Lent as well. May God continue to shape us more and more into the image of Christ! Peace to you and yours!

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