My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,
A couple of weeks ago, the Marianist Community’s latest issue of Leadership Journal arrived in the mail. Published quarterly, the magazine is written specifically for men and women serving in Christian ministry, and its subtitle sums up pretty well what the publication is all about: “Real Ministry in a Complex World.”
I was particularly intrigued by the cover of the most recent issue. It featured a tangle of computer wires dangling from an Ethernet cable and one word in big, bold red letters: “Declutter.” Article after article advised pastors to simplify their lives, clean house, and sort out the essential from the nonessential. “Silence your cell phone (and your soul),” one article counsels.
Although writing specifically for pastors, another author offers advice that can apply to all of us, whether we’re bogged down by the myriad responsibilities of teaching or the countless pressures of being a college student in the twenty-first century:
They [pastors] need to seek out streams of replenishment. We all have those temporary feel-good activities or temptations that we turn to when our souls get depleted, but what we’re looking for really are streams of replenishment that do more than mask the depletion; they actually replenish.
I get into this in almost every mentoring session I do. I’ll ask, “What do you turn to before you turn to a truly replenishing stream?” And people say, “I turn to food.” “I turn to alcohol.” “I turn to television.” “I turn to internet surfing.” “I turn to porn.”
Pastors are very open. And I’ll ask, “So how does that feel after an hour or two of that stuff? Does it help your true soul depletion? Does that start to refill you?” And they all say, “No.”
So I say, “Okay, so even if it’s not an evil thing, it’s not helping you. Let’s distinguish between escapist behaviors and what is a truly replenishing stream that will fill your soul back up.”
As I read these wise words, my mind kept returning to the season of Lent in which we now find ourselves. The forty days of Lent offer us just what we need: a season dedicated to decluttering our
souls and simplifying our lives so that we might find the “pearl of great price,” Our Savior Jesus Christ. Sure, the triple mandate of Lent – pray, fast, give – threatens us. Who has time to pray? Who wants to give up all the feel-good activities that provide temporary relief from life’s difficulties? Who wants to give more than we have already given?
The answer, of course, is anyone who seeks the truly replenishing streams of the Lord. “Beside restful waters He leads me,” the Psalmist reminds us, “to revive my drooping spirit.”
Amid all the clutter of cell phones and iPads, tests and term papers, weekday stresses and weekend parties, Jesus Christ offers us the true replenishing streams that will fill our souls back up with peace and purpose – maybe not overnight, but gradually, imperceptibly, until our restless hearts rest in Him.
We have His promise: “Come to me all who are weary and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Decluttering seems so daunting . . . and so necessary.
Praying, fasting, giving. “Well, that’s nice, but Lent’s almost half over and I haven’t done any of that yet. I don’t have the time.”
With Christ, it is never too late. He knows that we are anxious and perhaps even upset about many things. Still, He offers us the one thing that is truly necessary, and He promises that it will not be taken from us.
My dear friends, those of you who know me well probably remember the crowded calendar that sits on my disk, within view at almost every waking moment. I bet you can picture that massive fifteen-drawer filing cabinet in my office crammed with all my notes and every quiz and test I’ve ever given in my thirty-six years of teaching. Sometimes I think my life is a little too much like those filing cabinets – so much “stuff” to deal with that I hardly know where to start. Or like my email inbox – cluttered with so much junk mail. I’m sure you get the idea.
So, together, let’s embark on the work of decluttering our lives. The journey will be challenging from time to time, like crossing a barren desert. But the reward is the pearl of great price.
May the Lord grant us the grace this Lent to declutter our lives and hasten our way back to Him.
In Christ and His Blessed Mother,
P.S. Mark your calendars for May 19, 20, and 21 for our next retreat for college-age men. This one will be at Founder’s Hollow. More details to follow soon.