For the 40 days of Lent this year, I decided to turn off my television. Lent is a time when Christians slow down their schedules or deny...

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For the 40 days of Lent this year, I decided to turn off my television.

Lent is a time when Christians slow down their schedules or deny themselves some of life’s simple pleasures to make more space in their lives for God. I find it increasingly difficult to hear the voice of God in our fast-paced, noisy, urban, got-to-get-ahead environment. So instead of watching chefs hone their culinary skills or domestic gurus fashion a mansion out of a bungalow, or the 24-hour shopping channels, I decided to listen to the silence and see if perhaps God would speak to me as God spoke in Scripture to Elijah, in a still, small voice.
In the silence, I have had time to read about effective leadership, the importance of prayer and a contemplative lifestyle, write in my journal, write sermons and reflect on Jesus’ commandment for us to love one another as he loves us.

While I was growing up, my Baptist church didn’t pay much attention to the season of Lent, noting it in the church newsletter but otherwise making little of it. As I became aware of other Christian traditions, I realized that Lent was the holiest season of the year in more liturgical traditions such as the Episcopal, Lutheran and Catholic churches. Lent offers a time for personal reflection, repentance and reconciliation.

There is something in the human spirit that longs for a connection with the divine. As a clergywoman, I’ve watched women and men struggle to find purpose in their lives before coming to see that a life full of activities may not translate to a life filled with meaning. Rick Warren, in his popular series of “Purpose Driven” books, writes that one must begin with God in order to find purpose in life. I frequently hear questions about why one was created, what difference one’s life will make and why bad things happen to good people. These great questions of the human spirit deserve intentional consideration. Having a season to deliberately ponder such thoughts is key to having a spiritually rooted life.

While the days leading to Easter are for reflecting on one’s personal relationship with God, we also must reflect on how well we are showing God’s love to our friends and our enemies. We might find it relatively easy to care for those who look like us, talk like us, vote like we do or worship in the same congregation.

Yet, I suspect there is room for most of us to improve when it comes to loving those who get on our nerves or who have harmed us because of the color of our skin, our gender, our age, our income, our education, our religion or because of whom we love. When we realize that we have not loved our enemies as God has commanded us to do, we must confess our shortcomings and find ways to do differently.

Lent is generally an uncomfortable season, because if we are serious about reflecting on our spiritual journeys we must face our disappointments and those areas where our walk does not match our talk. Instead of sitting with the discomfort and making changes so our actions match our beliefs, we would rather just skip Lent and get to the fun of Easter. But there are lessons of patience, forgiveness, reconciliation and love that must be learned before we get to the grand party.

There are only two more weeks in Lent, but it is never too late to stop and listen for the voice of God. Unlike me, you may not have to turn off your television, stereo or MP3 player. God speaks love, peace, reconciliation and justice regardless of the decibel level of our surroundings.

Perhaps the challenge for all of us in our fast-paced, noisy, urban environment is to find that quiet place within our spirits that listens for, and hears, the voice of God.

The Rev. Patricia L. Hunter is an associate in ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church and an employee-benefits specialist for American Baptist Churches in the USA. She and four other columnists — Aziz Junejo, Pastor Mark Driscoll, the Rev. Patrick J. Howell and Rabbi Mark S. Glickman — take turns writing for the Faith & Values page.