Ash Wednesday: Lent is a Reinforcing Time

A rebar (short for reinforcing bar) — also known as reinforcing steel, reinforcement steel, re-rod, or deformed bar — is a common steel bar, and is commonly used as a tensioning device in reinforced concrete and reinforced masonry structures holding the concrete in compression. It is usually formed from carbon steel, and is given ridges for better mechanical anchoring into the concrete.

The cross I wear is made of rebar. It was made by a diesel-mechanic in Albany, Georgia in 1975. I’ve wore this cross during Lent ever since.

Like rebar, Lent is a reinforcing time, a time for reflection and a time for strengthening our faith. There is something comforting about this cross. The rebar reminds me that Lent is a time to spend some time thinking about who I am and about who God is.

When my now 41-year-old daughter was about four years old we had a little ritual in the backyard when I came home from work. I would call her name and she would say to me, with an impish grin, “busy.” The game was that she would run until I caught her and then she would say, “busy” again and I would start to walk away and then she would say, “No I’m not” and run into my arms smiling and giggling to give me a big hug.

A few years later I was thundering down the stairs, late for a staff meeting, when my son, who was about four, met me and said, “Daddy, let’s play.” I blurted out, “I have to go to work.” He burst into tears. I picked him up, called the office and told them I wasn’t coming in today. When I think of those days I break into smiles and tears.

Think about it. Most of us use the word “busy” as a catch-all excuse for not doing the things we ought to be doing.

Lent is a time when we need to think carefully about what we mean when we say that we are “busy”.

Most of us are frozen in the busy position and we do not take the time to do the things we need to do for ourselves and for others. We do not take the time to do the rebar thing we need to do to take of our faith and ourselves. We are constantly using our busyness to keep from doing the things we need to do.

I recently received an email from a friend of mine about a Stanford Medical Center study1. Here is what the study said:

Here are 6 reasons why we would all be happier if we stopped using ‘busy’ to describe ourselves and our lives.

  1.  It keeps you from being present. Being busy implies that you are preoccupied. Right when the word “busy” comes out of your mouth, life becomes more hectic. Instead of enjoying the present moment and your surroundings, the only thing you are doing is running through your to-do list in your head. For more information on the benefits of being present, check out this study that uses mindfulness to increase well-being.
  2. It disconnects you from other people. “I’m too busy.” Even saying the word makes me feel stressed and disconnected. Saying you’re too busy is like telling the other person they have too much time. It can be demeaning and come off self-centered, even if you are ‘busy’ saving the world.  Take a look at this infographic on how important social connection is to our health and happiness.
  3.  It is a choice. When I complain about how busy I am, it is as if someone put all these things on my plate without my approval. When in fact, I make my life the way it is. I chose to be in school. I chose to work three jobs. I chose to pack my weeks with plans and travel whenever possible. The question is: Is it all worth it? If it is, be grateful and proud of everything you do. If it’s not, make a change.
  4.  It is a cover-up. If someone asks you to do something and you either don’t want to or have other plans, say it. “It’d be great to see you, but I think my body needs a good night’s sleep.” “Sorry I made other plans, maybe we can reschedule.” “I’d love to but I really should study tonight. I’m trying to raise my grades.” Tell it how it is, so your loved ones don’t constantly hear that you are “too busy” for them.
  5.  Busy is not a feeling. Why is ‘busy’ used as a response to “How are you?” What are your true emotions associated with being busy? It’s okay to be honest. You may feel stressed-out or anxious.  At least those are feelings that the other person can understand and connect with.  This is also a useful tool to gain awareness of how being ‘busy’ is making you feel.
  6.  It can easily be re-framed. Summing up your life as “busy” doesn’t acknowledge all the good things you are doing.  If you really feel like you need to sum your life up in one word, try using the words ‘active,’ ‘eventful,’ ‘involved’ or ‘lively’. These words have a more positive connotations and many times it’s what you mean anyway.  Before trying to figure out which responsibilities you should cut out of your life, try removing this one word from your daily conversations.  It just may happen that life starts to seem a little less hectic.

Lent is a time set aside to slow down and do things a little differently.

Lent is a time for us to seize this day as a new day.

Lent can be a time of reflection, but it doesn’t have to be a time that is so solemn that we forget to live.

Lent is a time for us to set aside our busyness and begin to reinforce our faith in our relationship with God, each other, and Jesus.

The ancient Christians had it right, Lent is a time of prayer, a time of rest, a time of study and a time of fasting. That is in part the rule of Benedict. It is really very simple.

We need to do the rituals in order to find some focus in our lives. We need to do simple things like pay attention to how many times we tell some one we are too busy. We need to pay attention to how many times we convince ourselves that we are too busy to seize the day and taste the wonder of God.

Lent is when we stand with the prophet Joel and return to the Lord. We need to return with open hearts. We need to gather the people in worship and remember what God has done in our lives. And wherever we go during these forty days of Lent we need to leave a blessing.

In all of this we can never be too busy to feel the presence of God, for God abounds in grace, steadfast in love and because of that, because of God’s power we can seize this day and reinforce our faith as we hold God’s hand during our Lenten walk.

We all have our individual rebar. Seize the day, set aside our busyness, lets all re-enforce our faith. Amen.

Pastor Michael Brecke

1 This article is republished from our content  partner  Fulfillment Daily: Daily Science-Backed News for a Happier Life, founded by Stanford University psychologist Emma Seppala, who is also Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford’s School of Medicine.