A traditional spiritual discipline of Lent has been to give up or sacrifice something we enjoy as a way of replicating Jesus’ sacrifice and withdrawal to the desert as preparation for Easter. Mystic and spiritual guide Howard Thurman explains, “The true purpose of all spiritual disciplines is to clear away whatever may block our awareness of that which is God in us. . .” This makes sense. Yet, I’d like to think Thurman would approve of adopting a practice that opens one’s awareness of God’s presence. Over the last couple of years, rather than give up something, I’ve chosen to add the practice of being in God’s presence. For me, Lent is an invitation to pause, to turn my heart toward the Divine and deepen my faith and relationship with God by taking an inward journey into the heart of God. In solitude, I bow before the One who sees me and knows me completely. I ask: What I am seeking? What God is seeking? What do I need to do or change to align myself with what God is asking of me? I give over my fears, grief, wounds and worries to God through scripture, prayer, meditation, and listening. Like the Samaritan woman, my thirst is quenched as I draw from the well of God’s redemptive, transformative love. God meets me at my point of need, and I know that I am enough – beloved, called, and secure.
Swirling around us is a growing culture of demonization of the “other,” distrust and disdain for the truth, and the undoing of civil and personal rights. It is important for people of faith to have an informed consciousness about issues related to systemic racism and social justice. In a word, to be “woke.” We need not allow woke to be a weaponized, derogatory term. As Bruce Epperly recently wrote, “being ‘awake’ is a biblical injunction. . .to be truly ‘woke’ is to be attentive to injustice, aware of the moral and spiritual arcs of history and choose to let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. . .” We need to be willing to work together as instruments of change. When we put our trust in God, we can expect power and transformation! As that old song says, God can do it suddenly! I agree with Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes that “… God can enter in, no matter how devious the Christian tenets have become with regard to race, and suddenly change everything, can change the hearts of your enemies, can make you strong enough to be able to stand, can give you power and can give you strength.”
As a woman in ministry, Lent grounds and enables me to share God’s love by doing the good work of chaplaincy: serving as source of radical acceptance, pastoral presence, and light for people of all faiths, meeting them at their point of need amid illness, uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and death, with living water.
Rev. Janis Morrison Brown is a DSF/CST graduate (M.Div./2012), a board-certified chaplain, and an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Rev. Brown is Staff Chaplain at St. Joseph’s Hospital and serves as an Elder and member of the ministry team at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Tucson, AZ.