Introduction to our Lenten Devotional
I remember I was about 12 when I got my first set of eyeglasses. I had complained to my mom that I was having trouble seeing the chalkboard (you may need to explain to your children what that was). She took me to the optometrist and soon I had my first pair of glasses. I remember us driving home after I had put them on and being amazed and somewhat flabbergasted at what I was seeing. I could see colors seemingly crisper and deeper; I could see the leaves on the trees sharply defined and blowing in the wind; I could see objects off in the distance that had only been a blur before. I was shocked in part because I had not realized how blind I had been to the world around me. The universe was a far more beautiful place than I had been able to perceive. Of course, the newness wore off, but the lesson stayed with me. In what ways are we blind and don’t even know it?
I have been struck this past year amidst our heated debates on politics and Black Lives Matter and kneeling football players how difficult it is to see the world the way others see it. This has been particularly painful when we find ourselves in conflict with family and friends and neighbors unable to connect to each other. We struggle with those closest to us who have such different worldviews because we just cannot imagine how they see the world the way they do. We are in essence blind to each other.
There are very human reasons for this blindness. Social psychological research indicates we all have biases that prevent us from seeing in ways that contradict how our brains construct the world around us. To be human is to be blind. And we don’t even realize it.
You are invited this Lent to explore your own blindness. In this season of self-examination and reflection, we are called to look deeply within ourselves and at the world. To aid you in your journey, Heartland will be offering different resources each week as you engage in some spiritual disciplines for revealing and more deeply understanding our own blindness. We will send you spiritual exercises every Friday for the following week. These resources will also be available on our website. You may use some or all of them depending on your time and inclination.
Here is a brief description of these exercises to reveal and explore our blindness.
We encourage you to begin your prayer time with centering prayer. This prayer only takes ten or fifteen minutes or so to prepare our hearts and minds by resting in God’s grace.
We encourage you to journal throughout Lent as we ask you to answer questions and reflect on your own biases and blindness in your lives. The emphasis will be on your own storytelling of your own experiences in your life.
“Learning How to See” Podcast
In this engaging and insightful podcast, from the Center for Action and Contemplation, we listen to a conversation between Brian McLaren, an evangelical preacher and writer, along with Richard Rohr, a Benedictine Monk, and Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, an African American Presbyterian Pastor in New York. In this series of 6 episodes, these three deeply spiritual theologians explore the different biases that shape our human seeing and how contemplation can help us see more clearly. We will cover a different episode each week providing questions and thoughts for you to consider. The link to this podcast is below.
Questions for Reflection/Journaling
1. Brian McLaren shares a story of an experience at Charlottesville. What did it teach him? Have you ever had a similar experience that caused you to wrestle with how difficult it is to see other points of view?
2. What do you think it means to assert we are looking for a story with an ending?
3. How would you define bias? Could you reflect on an experience where you saw bias? Could you identify bias in yourself?
4. What are the gifts of diversity?
5. What might be some lies we prefer to the complexity of reality?
We will send you thoughts and notes about our online recorded worship each week, hopefully providing you with resources that might deepen your worship experience. With one exception, each week’s worship will be centered on a text from the gospel of John. One reason for this is that John’s gospel has as a central metaphor seeing and not seeing, light and darkness, as the challenge for those who seek to follow Jesus.
There is no one right way to use these spiritual exercises from Heartland. You may use some of them and discard others. You may try and set aside time each day to pray and reflect or you may identify mini retreats in the week for an hour or so. Let the Spirit guide you on this Lenten journey. Our prayers are with you.