As the years pass, it’s not just the body that gets older and the mind more set in its ways. Tastes, styles and fashions also change, and what was considered normal dress or behaviour in one age is at the least ‘old-fashioned’ and, in some cases, positively outlawed in another. (Thank goodness poachers aren’t threatened with man-traps these days!)
Like me, some readers will recall their schooldays and question how much of what we learned is still relevant in the twenty-first century. You may remember, for example, something like this. “Now then, children: hands together, eyes closed … let us pray”. It was a bit like starting a race with ‘ready, steady, go!’; was all that preparation really necessary? Or was it just another thing that we were taught as children, simply because we were children, rather than because of its being essential in later life?
It doesn’t take much imagination, of course, to realise that to encourage the occupation of hands and eyelids in this way was an attempt to ensure that the child’s attention was focused as closely as possible on the present task. As any parent knows, a child’s mind can wander to any number of ‘unwanted’ topics in less time than it takes a grown-up to define them. But In our adult life, too, there is much to tempt us away from God and from communicating with Him, which is so essential to the relationship between Him and us. Indeed, such distractions clamour for our time and money every moment of the day.
Jeremiah wrote to God’s people in exile in Babylon, promising them His reassurance of hope and a future back in their own land. “You will call on Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you … you will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:12-13.) Could God be preparing you for a new beginning with Him at the centre?
Easter Day this year is April 1st, and yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The book of Proverbs contains many gems of concentrated wisdom. In its midst is this assessment of the sort of discipline that the name ‘Lent’ conjures up in many people’s minds: “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases Him.” (Prov. 15:8.) If we need an incentive to re-adjust the fine-tuning of our lives, let’s use these weeks as an opportunity, not for a negative, such as the sacrifice of sweets or alcohol as usual, but for something positive for God, perhaps prayer or some additional use of our time or our money. After all, there are so many worthy targets for them both.
In the words of the old BT advert, ‘It’s good to talk.’ Why not make a Lent Resolution to talk to God more? An extra five minutes at lunchtime, for example, to bring Him into our daily challenges could have benefits that we couldn’t – or wouldn’t – dream of. Remember, if we put our hands together, we can’t dip them into purses or buy stuff on line without at least a second thought; if we close our eyes, we won’t notice all those ‘alternative attractions’ that the world constantly throws before us.
So … “Ready, steady, God!”