Time Out

The past couple months, I didn’t run as much as usual. A grumpy knee, frigid weather, and limited sleep grounded me. I missed my time on the road, but unlike prior occasions when I’ve been hit with similar challenges, I accepted the call to take a break. It was nice to sleep a little more than usual. But, I’m done resting. My knee’s happy with stretches and new shoes – praise the Lord – and I hit the road with renewed energy last week. I’ve heard a little rest does a lot of good, but I’ve never desired a break from running. Now that I’ve had a time out, involuntary as it was, I can say my renewed excitement to get out the door and my anticipation of more starting lines made it worthwhile.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” John 15:1-2

We’re in the beginning of Lent – a season to focus on God’s sacrifice for us, cultivate a truly repentant heart, and accept His immense love for us. We’re called to do those things daily, but Lent offers a 40-day time out to make them the focal points of our existence. This week, my friend Amy led me to the scripture above and helped me realize it can have a strong connection to Lent. We need time outs to reflect on our weaknesses, and we need to follow our reflection with purposeful and passionate action – allowing God to cut away our fruitless branches and prune the fruitful ones so they grow even fuller. There’s always room for improvement no matter how fruitful we think we are, and Lent is the perfect time for a pruning. Some of our behaviors should be cut out altogether. We each have our own challenges, and I struggle with habitual concern of what others think, putting my interests above others, and allowing myself to be lured away from God by the material possessions and power this world offers. Even our beautiful, flowering branches need periodic pruning. Non-stop growth or momentum, with no time outs for reflection and tweaking can get ugly … like a toddler who needs a nap, the overgrown branch that crashes through your roof, or the split ends on your hair when you avoid trims to grow it out. Likewise, spiritual momentum needs to be kept in check … when I note I’ve denied myself Diet Coke for three whole days as part of my Lenten journey, as if it’s an admirable accomplishment, it’s time to humbly have the pride pruned. Spiritual growth should bring us closer to God, not inflate our head. In our fast-paced world of constant distraction, Lent is a blessed time out. With a little pruning, we can emerge from our 40-day journey with renewed excitement to know Him better and energized anticipation of His plans for us.

Dear God, please help me embrace this Lenten season with reflection and a desire for growth in You.