Making Room to Make Room for God

It’s too easy to think of Great Lent as the time of more: more services, more fasting (and therefore more meal planning), more (or just some?) Bible reading, and in general just more things to fit into our already-packed schedules. On one level all those things are true, but truer still is that the most important more of Great Lent is more God. More awareness of Him in our busy, worrisome lives.

And while it seems like Lent is about fitting in more, the key to it is actually focusing on less: less focus on food, less meaningless distractions, less ignorance of the immediate presence of our loving, saving God. The problem is that the road to “less” goes through “more.” Yes, we need more time in prayer (including Lenten services), fasting, and being good to others (almsgiving). So how do we get there when it seems that there’s no room for anything more?

There’s an old sermon illustration where someone tries to fit some rocks into a jar filled with pebbles. When the jar is already full of the pebbles, the rocks don’t fit, but if you empty the jar, put the bigger rocks in and then add the pebbles, they all fit. The point is that if we start with the bigger, more important items in life first, they’ll be room for the smaller, less important parts of our lives, but not the other way around.

While there is truth to this, it’s also true that there’s only so much– only so much energy to expand, only so many hours in the day, only so much attention to focus. Sometimes, something just has to give. If Lent is about making room for God in our lives, then we need to make room in our lives to make room for Him. And that means letting some things go.

So what are those things? What are the things that take our time and energy that can either be reduced or even eliminated as we map out our Lenten journey? For some of us, it’s shopping. For others, it’s how close we follow sports or politics. For too many of us, it’s the time we spend endlessly scrolling through Facebook, Snapchat, or other social media. We can have all the best of intentions for how we will struggle through the Great Fast, but if we don’t make those efforts possible by making room for them, we’ll end up skipping services, guiltily eating non-fasting foods, and then justifying our lack of Lenten participation. And what a tragedy this would be. Lent is one of the most beautiful and powerful gifts of our Orthodox Christian Faith. It is a time of spiritual renewal like no other. And boy, do we need it! And this world needs it! And so this world needs us to be renewed.

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts refers to Great Lent as the “all-revered Days.” As we approach these “all-revered Days” let’s plan and resolve to make room in our lives to make room for God. Let’s decide that before the sun sets today we will name the one, two, or three things that we reduce or even eliminate from our lives for the 40-day journey that is Great Lent. Maybe we make those changes permanent but that’s not our decision today.

God already knows what beautiful spiritual treasures He has in store for us, longing to give them to us like a parent wrapping their children’s Christmas gifts, dreaming of the expression on their faces when they open them. He has treasures of peace and love and joy just waiting to be found. Let’s not miss out on them. Let’s not let our good intentions of spiritual efforts go the way of most of our good intentions, all while robbing ourselves of untold blessings. God is going to need room in our lives to give us those gifts. Let’s make the room to receive them.