I always find lent an austere and difficult time. In part that is a conscious choice on my part – to deny self by some kind of regular fast to focus the time on praying rather than eating. In part it is because it usually falls in the still, dying throes of winter, before spring's new life has had a chance to break out. But mostly it is because I inevitably find that trying to focus on God, and set aside time to pray invariably means other things try to crowd in on my time. And when I do finally get to pray, my mind cannot focus, I pray in meaningless clichés, or my mind wanders butterfly like on to a host of random irrelevancies.
Prayer is work, work is prayer, so goes the old saying. While the latter deserves a whole season of blog posts (OK, I can hear the groans – not seriously), the former is very true. If we are going to do business with God we will face opposition – whether that is from external, demonic forces or the simple stubbornness of the human heart that refuses both true repentance and grace, it is a sign that we are drawing closer to God when it gets harder to find Him. The paradox of God's grace is that the more we need it, the less we believe we can receive it, the more we seek God's face, the further He can seem to be. But then He breaks in, like those rays of light on a dark cloudy day where the sun shines through, illuminating the shadowed ground. Always when we least expect it, always when we least feel we've done anything to earn it. That, in the end, is the maddening, paradoxically delightful nature of grace.
So, it has been a dry, hard Lent so far, and past experience teaches me to roll with it – not to expect sudden revelations, sudden clarity, even while I hope for them. But I also suspect, in the words of Bruce Cockburn, that
this is part of a group Lenten blog orgnaised by Christine Sine of Mustard Seed Associates. Their Lenten Guide is available online
"nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight/got to kick at the darkness 'till it bleeds day light."