Beloved St. John’s community,
According to people who know how to measure these things, this year the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere will occur at 2:37am on Saturday March 20 – two days from now! As of that time, there will be more light than dark each day. Because of that sunlight, the earth will wake up. The buds and sprouts will begin, many animals will begin nesting and birthing, and exponentially more people will be outside gardening, walking, running, skating, biking, and getting fresh air after a long winter and all the isolation of the past year.
It is not an accident that Holy Week and Easter occur this time of year. The annual cycles of death and birth, rest and renewal that the seasons give us naturally also lend themselves to matters of the heart. At this time of year, especially leading up to Holy Week, it is appropriate to be asking ourselves: what is dying, in my life and in the life of the world around me? What needs to be reborn? Where is the life of Christ—the extravagant love of God made known in its overwhelming freedom, in its giving-away-ness—most needed in you and in our city?
As you ponder these things, I’m guessing you don’t have to dig very far for the answers. Some of us are struggling with difficult marriages, or struggles in parenting, or in isolation and health, and the ways this pandemic and the past year have put pressure on all of those things. As our city wrestles with preparation for Derek Chauvin’s trial, we are all coming to terms with the full extent of systemic racism in our nation, and what God requires of us in our structures, generosity, and way of life to heal this open wound.
As the light around us increases, let us also allow the light within us to increase. I believe that what God requires of us is not so much gritting our teeth to “get it right” as it is to surrender to the life and love of God, and to let that life and love carry us. It is to surrender our habitual ways of thinking about the world so that we can be open to the deepest wisdom of God’s Spirit, expressed in our own hearts. It is to let go of our habits of will so that we can align with the will of God to love.
There is a simple way to practice this kind of surrender. It’s called Centering Prayer. In Centering Prayer, you sit quietly for 20 minutes with the intent to consent to the presence and action of God. That key word, “consent,” indicates a posture of receptivity, not activity. In centering prayer, you choose a sacred word that is emotionally neutral – perhaps, “God,” “Love,” “Jesus”, “one”, or any other word, and every time you catch yourself thinking, you say that word and release the thought – surrender it to God. You aren’t judging the thought; you’re practicing the art of surrender, in utter trust that whatever your own best thoughts are, this time is for yielding to a different operating system, which is the activity of God in your heart.
Don’t worry, your best thoughts will come back to you later. If you will try this practice regularly, with the purpose of trusting God and surrendering your own way of seeing the world, a new reality will begin to emerge. You will begin to “see with the eye of your heart.” It may not occur during your times of prayer, but during your everyday life. You will find that you are learning more trust, more acceptance, more serenity. You will find yourself less attached to your own perceptions and ways of thinking, and more willing to surrender the patterns of life that are not working any more.
And this posture of surrender to the love of God, of receptivity to the presence and action of God, will move in you like the currents of life in springtime. It’s not something you have to effort your way through, so much as yielding to a power greater than yourself. What if you could believe that healing is possible, for yourself and the world? What if you could see the contours of that healing, and just cooperate with it? What if this practice could help us see how God is moving in us for healing and change?
My prayer for each of you, and for the St. John’s community and our city, is the paradoxical power of surrender to the love of God. May you experience the healing of God’s presence, the power of God’s indestructible life, and the joy of spring.
Faithfully, in Christ’s love,