Lessons I have learned through Lent this year transcend the observance of a 40 day fast.
I spent Ash Wednesday in Manchester city centre on an ‘Urban Retreat’ – taking time to be still and attentive in the extreme business. Stopping; not just to look, but to notice; asking, “Where is God?” and experiencing Him and others in a deeper way.
During this exercise I realised how much I have adapted to rural Cambridgeshire, as I struggled to be attentive and find peace amidst the constant noise of busses, trams, people rushing from A to B and the almost constant sound of sirens.
As hard as it was to retreat in this environment, I did indeed see God.
For me, this is what Lent has been about – Taking time out to look for God; hence, vigi-lent!
I noticed God in the creativity and beauty of an outstanding female guitarist & vocalist, talented enough to be signed to a label and touring the world – busking in Piccadilly Gardens with only a dozen people taking the time to watch and listen.
I felt genuine compassion for the homeless men and women and those who appeared to be in pain. I felt confusion and frustration at the vast numbers of people out ‘together’ but not engaging with one another. Friends, family members, couples, gazing at small screens rather than at the faces of those they were with; present, but not fully present.
I smiled at the joy, grace and kindness of people giving ‘free hugs’ and white roses to passers by.
Much of the beauty I noticed and the experiences I had that day were momentary, there one moment and gone the next. I was challenged to be attentive and make every moment count, to recognise opportunities to experience God in the beauty of my surroundings and the people I share them with.
I hope to continue to be vigi-lent, beyond Lent. I want to go beyond the surface, beyond the book cover, beyond first impressions, beyond my current experience of something or someone – to see situations and people as God sees them, indeed to see God in them. Will you join me?
May you see God today.