God has created us for relationship with Him, a fact which, in the hurry-scurry of our day-to-day lives and obligations, can easily be obscured if we let it be - and of course we are all too willing for just that to happen. Yet, we all yearn to have a life which has meaning and purpose, to feel that we are of worth and that our efforts and achievements are worthwhile and valued. We all know and have heard that God wants us to turn toward him, love him, follow him and do his will in order to provide the meaning and purpose which we otherwise lack, to supply structure to our lives, to fill us from the inside with his love and grace. Without turning ourselves wholly over to God we have an empty, restless, unfulfilled center and the intuitive recognition that our life is withering in pursuit of the empty, the inessential, the ephemeral.
Lent is a time when we are invited to turn inward, to abstain from the myriad gratifications which we create for ourselves and which the world offers, including the simple satisfaction of being endlessly if not productively busy. It is always easier to continue in the same rut, to let unthinking habit govern our actions than it is to consider where we are and the quality of our lives. It is doubtless this very human preference to avoid uncomfortable introspection, to allow the getting and providing of our lives to crowd our God, which inspired early Christians in the centuries following the birth of Christ to set aside the forty days prior to Easter as a time to break with habit, to expose our empty busy ways, to break the bonds of the world, even if briefly, to turn away and be more contemplative.
Thus, Lent is, at its core, about focus, about the ability to stop and to reflect upon our priorities and choices and how they shape us. It is a chance to discern the essential and to recognize and discard the inessential. It is an opportunity to understand and refocus upon who made us and for what we are made. It is an opportunity, in discarding the inessential and transitory, to find true joy.
4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.