In my job, I supervise financial advisors for a large firm. I primarily focus on the best interest of clients, with special consideration given to the many laws and federal regulations governing the industry. I monitor a variety of actions using the phone, the computer and face-to-face interaction.
Occasionally, I take extra time and make use some unique tools and technology to look more closely at how an advisor runs his or her business. I get more detailed in my analysis. In my department, we call that making a “deeper dive.”
I consider the season of Lent an opportunity to make a spiritual “deeper dive” — into all things about God in general and my own faith in particular.
Benjamin Franklin offered this sage advice more than two centuries ago: “Think of these things: whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account.”
When I contemplate “from whence I came,” I recognize a call to get to know God more intimately. I read about the forgiveness and mercy of God, the love and the joy available to all who believe. It isn’t so different from the relationships I have with my friends and family. Having some details about what my friend does for a living, where he lives, his favorite sports teams and foods can allow me to say that I know him. But the depth accompanying close friendship requires extra time and effort; I need to sit with him, ask questions and listen to the answers with great attention.
Doing that early this Lent, I find more faith questions than answers. It’s a little like what goes through my mind when I look, for instance, at my favorite purple necktie. I wonder: Does purple look the same to my eyes as it does to those of other people? We can call the color by the same name, but do they see exactly the same thing I see? I think of the love I feel for God — is what I feel and call love truly the affection I’m supposed to feel? Or should the love be even greater, deeper, more moving and life-changing?
That presents my Lenten opportunity: Sacrifice some of my time, discipline myself to limit distractions, immerse my heart in “God’s classroom.”
When I think about where I am going, I detect a summons to look in the spiritual mirror. That means participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation — a great idea any time of the year, but especially pertinent in Lent. Comprehending more fully God’s characteristics of love, forgiveness and mercy happens in the confessional in ways a book never can reveal. Receiving absolution is perhaps the most ideal entrance into this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Whether in preparation for confession or simply trying to understand myself better, an examination of conscience can be vital. A year ago I detailed a good process involving the Ten Commandments at www.eisenbath.com/a-powerful-examination .
Regarding “to whom I must account” and this life I lead, I ponder these words from Thomas à Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ: “Keep yourself as a pilgrim and a stranger here in this world, as one to whom the world’s business counts but little. Keep your heart free, and always lift it up to God.”
In reflection, I must determine if I live accountable to my wife or my children or my boss or my personal expectations … or to the Father, Son and Spirit. What is my goal in life: to be well-liked, to have a positive reputation, to get a promotion and make more money for my family … or to answer and fulfill God’s unique call? What do I think that call and vocation are: Marriage or parenthood or ministry … or being one with God?
I might pride myself on being a good person and exemplary Christian. But as I inspect my heart and soul more intensely, I find that God actually calls me to be a great person, a saint.
Making a deeper dive this Lent can feel intimidating. With me, please take heart. God has a passionate message for all of us willing to plunge headfirst: “Be not afraid.”