BY STEPHANIE VOS – GUEST COLUMNIST
I love to teach yoga. More important, I love to practice yoga. Yet the more I teach, the more likely I am to neglect to practice. I can get away with this for a little while, but then my teaching starts to suffer, and my life starts to suffer, and I begin to crave practice. When I find myself doing a little yoga here and there, any chance I can get, I know it’s bad. Me trying to stretch and twist during a meeting isn’t helpful for anyone involved.
At this point you may be thinking, “Yes, well, that’s all very nice. So do more yoga.”
But that isn’t my point. My point is that we all become experts in, and leaders for, things that are important to us. And when we do, it’s easy to forget about the foundation that led to our expertise or leadership.
It’s incredibly easy to ‘do’ something you love, without really practicing. Faith is a perfect example.
Chances are, if you’re reading this column, you go to church. Or, at the very least, you want some connection with spirituality. If you do attend church, I truly hope it nourishes you spiritually. But if it doesn’t — and if you haven’t even noticed it doesn’t — what then? Perhaps little things in your life start to suffer, and you begin to feel a craving.
That’s where practice enters the picture.
In a little more than a week, Christians will pause for Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, which encompasses the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Lent marks the time Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, preparing himself for the turmoil he soon would face. For us, Lent also is a wonderful time to prepare ourselves — to be intentional about our lives. Yet too many of us go about it the wrong way.
Christians typically approach Lent by asking what it is we’re going to “give up.” A better question would be: What is my intention? How can I take a moment to pause and reflect on my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing? How can I be kind and generous with myself, and use this time for my best and highest good? What connections can I make? What connections do I need?
That’s a lot harder than giving up something. And it takes practice.
It breaks my heart each year to see people treat Lent like a children’s good behavior sticker-chart. There is so much beauty and potential during Lent to build a deep connection with what gives us life; to take time for reflection on how that’s going for us; and to live our lives with intention.
If you have been neglecting your spiritual foundation, now is the time to nurture it. Maybe you will find clarity about what it is your heart or mind or body is craving — that thing you love so much, but do without thinking.
Take time to find your connection and then practice it. Because, unlike yoga, living an intentional life won’t happen by doing a little bit here and a little bit there any chance you get. It takes concerted practice, and Lent offers the perfect time for that.
Stephanie Vos is the Pastor of Lifelong Learning at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater. If your church would like to contribute columns to the Gazette, contact Jonathan Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.