Encouragement for the Journey
Greetings fellow traveller,
Driven by the wind of the Spirit.
The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days of solitude, testing, formation and preparation, and the season of lent attempts to mirror this in our own life by giving us a space in the year where we allow the Spirit to drive us into a place where we can see more clearly what is needed and what is excess baggage.
That might sound like too much work to you, but I wonder if that is because we so easily let the whole of our religious life become driven not by the Spirit, but by the cultural values of achievement and success. We look for these in all aspects of the spiritual life, whether it is the success of a programme we run or a personal lenten discipline or the value and effectiveness of a service of worship.
In our cultural understanding of what it means to live a full and meaningful life even play and recreation are subject to the drive to succeed. Play has a purpose. When you are playing a game of tennis, or rugby or football you need to train for it, to practice until you have your stroke down or your set play flows smoothly. If you are part of a team, you need to practice so you can know the strengths and weaknesses of your teammates. You need to know who can put on a burst of speed, who’s best at spotting an opening, who has the greatest stamina, who can motivate the rest of the team. This kind of play has a point and a purpose beyond itself in terms of forming a community and in terms of honing skills, providing an opportunity for exercise – but most of all, the purpose of play is to win!
We may have professional players in a sport, but the real experts of play are young children. When you are playing with a young child none of those competitive, driven purposes of a game have any value. When you play with a child, or when you allow yourself to play like a child, then what is important? Play becomes about the relationship, about imagination and about fun. Play becomes allowing the other person to express something of who they are, and to respond by showing something of who you are. Play becomes about possibilities and experiments and invention.
In this season of lent, I wonder what a lenten practice might look like if the Spirit drove you into a place where the cultural measures of worth and value fall away like so much excess baggage and instead the playful values of fun and exploration were your guides?
David Stendahl Rast wrote: “Each string of a wind harp responds with a different note to the same breeze. What activity makes you personally resonate most strongly, most deeply, with the wind of the Spirit that blows where it wills?”
There is a lot to unlearn and to let go of if you are to enter into playful relationship with the Spirit, but there is also the possibility of discovering a deep resonance that has nothing to do with success or achievement, and everything to do with the joyful relationship at the heart of our Lenten journey.