According to the story passed (probably) from Peter to Mark in Rome, Jesus’ ministry began in a meeting with a brave prophet who would later be executed for the pleasure of a dancing girl; and then in a desert getaway of poverty and simplicity.
Jesus reflected a lot throughout His ministry. He would often go to a lonely place, without any accustomed comforts, to see His life from a different perspective. Going away lets us to see home in a different light. Getting out of the comfortable rut that will become our grave has always been prized as a method of enlightenment. All our poets and philosophers did it. Varying the pace of life has tremendous advantages.
When I think of my own efforts to step away from the humdrum, I am reminded of the urban myth poster advertising an “Afternoon Fast on the lawn followed by a Cream Tea at 4 pm” . The Quaker in me also knows that silent reflection on its own can merely confirm our prejudices. The teacher in me knows that silent reflection should be challenged by writing thoughts down so that we can scour them with reading eyes and see our follies clearly. Writing is so much less ephemeral than speaking. The urge to record exactly what you mean is overwhelming.
Two aids to reflection are: doing without something you have come to depend upon; and learning to do something new. Both provoke reflection because one is required to solve the problem of how to manage without or how to cope with the new. The most innovative people on earth are the poorest. They make household items from junk thrown away by the wealthy (us); they manage to feed their families with food that we would reject as unfit; they survive on fewer calories than even Weight Watchers would recommend; they mend things that we would throw broken away to landfill; some of them make homes out of landfill.
So, approaching the season of Lent, what are we going to do to help us reflect on our mission in life? What can we give up? What can we take up? Let’s not make it trivial. Let’s aim at new skills, new abilities to do without some of the stuff we take for granted. Some poor people may incidentally benefit from what we do without, but the main beneficiaries will be ourselves and those amongst whom our mission develops. And, if we write our resolutions down along with our reasoning, we will be sure we know exactly what we mean. We might find that, to quote The Message: we will be changed “from the inside out.”