Friday, 15 February 2013

Lent for Extroverts 3: Holy Highway Maintenance

Very unusually for me I went for a pre-breakfast walk on day 3 of Lent, and Lenten thoughts were stimulated, in extrovert fashion, by seeing a highway maintenance truck refilling the water hydrants on the side of the road.

It's perhaps more an Advent image, but the holy highway of the prophet Isaiah can also be a picture of how we 'make way' for God in our own lives. Lent is nothing if not about this clearing of the highway, which tends to get clogged with all sorts of things that get in the way; the pot holes of omission and the confusion of fading lines of divine communication. I'm still grappling with what highway maintenance means for people like me who are energised by the exterior world of people, places and things. Sooner or later, whether we like it or not, there needs to be some withdrawal from all the stimulation, into something solitary and quiet. 

Personally I can't imagine good highway maintenance, for the ordained at least, without effective spiritual direction. I had a spiritual director once who was a bit short on empathy but hot on pithy comment. I was moaning one time that I had no one to talk to about what God was doing in my life and she suggested I consider Mary, the mother of Jesus. After the momentous appearance of the shepherds to the manger side in Bethlehem, after the strange and mystifying words that have been uttered about her baby, it says in Luke 'but Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart'; not 'and she went home and told everyone she could about it.' This has stuck in my mind ever since. 

Lenten 'highway maintenance' for extroverts may involve not doing something that comes naturally in order to go deeper into God. The irony is that you may need to find someone older and wiser to talk to about not talking to all and sundry about what God is talking to you about. Now there's a Lenten paradox.

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