“Look before you leap!” My fellow cleric Geraldine Granger (better known as the Vicar of Dibley), once superbly highlighted in a literal sense the need to pay attention to this well known saying that came to my mind this week.
Finding herself enjoying a stroll along a country path she decided to playfully jump into a puddle about her width just ahead of her on the road. Little did she know however that her approaching cursory glance had not revealed the true depth of this particular patch of water (that was actually about six feet deep) and before she knew it her ill fated leap had seen her disappear completely from view, to remerge coughing and spluttering covered from head to toe in muddy water.
As is usually the case, this year February sees the beginning of the period of the church year that is Lent. This then is the time when many of us will be deciding what, if anything, we may want to do to mark this time when we remember Jesus in the wilderness, fasting and praying and being tested by the devil.
Often we decide to give something up that we like very much; chocolate or wine perhaps or some other treat, and this is done maybe to reveal to ourselves and to others our level of self control in line with that of Jesus Himself – denied food and water in the desert. Other times we may look instead to do something or take something on that will improve our knowledge of God and His ways, such as engaging in study of the Bible or some other religious text, or maybe committing ourselves to a time of prayer each day. Or perhaps we may decide some years to do something for others, to take on a selfless attitude as indeed Christ Himself refused personal gain in His dealings with the devil in the wilderness. This could possibly be by helping family members, neighbours and friends in need or even by making time to do some voluntary or charitable work.
But whatever we do the important thing is that we don’t do it just for the sake of it – that we don’t just leap blindly into something rather than actually thinking about it first. I still remember as a boy suggesting to my mother that I follow the lead of a girl in my class who had said she was giving up white bread for Lent. A great idea I thought until my mother reminded me of a pretty important fact – that I never ate white bread anyway!
Lent is a time of year given to us by God to focus ourselves on Jesus and the time He spent coming closer to God and understanding what it was that God wanted Him to do in the world, not least for the sake of others. And this is exactly what it should be for us as well, a time to understand God, ourselves and our relationship more; and then a chance to discover how and what that might see us needing to change or do.
So “look before you leap” this Lent when deciding what you can and possibly should give up, or take on at this time of year – both for your sake and the sake of others, if it truly is something that brings you closer to God and His Son Jesus Christ, on the run up to the celebration of Easter. Andy