I don’t know about you, but I travel on public transport a lot of the time. Not that I like it, but it is, when it is working, and here in Sydney that is not necessarily a give, easier to traverse this city than in your car. Especially if you are going to the CBD. Every time I get on the train I am reminded by the platform announcer to “Mind the Gap.” Gaps are important to be aware of as they cause us to stumble, and sometimes fall. This does not only apply to physical gaps, such as the ones between a train and a platform, but Spiritual Gaps as well.
Most of you will be aware that we are in the Season of Lent. This is the time when we reflect on our relationship with God, sorrow for our sins, and seek to renew our relationship with the Living God. Part of that tradition has been “giving up” something for Lent. Nowadays this has fallen into some disrepair, and often I find that the second part of the tradition is not being fulfilled. That is, we give up something to allow us not be distracted in our quest to get closer to God. In other words, the intent behind giving up something was twofold, self denial, and, just as importantly, the time and space to do something that gets you closer to God.
The “doing something to get you closer to God” is our Spiritual Gap. It is what is missing in our relationship with God that causes us to stumble, to trip, and sometimes fall in our relationship with Him. So how do we discern our Spiritual Gaps?
1. Reflection. Without this first step we can not hope to discern our Gaps. We need to use this time of reflection. It might take us the whole of Lent to reflect, that is not a problem. This is not usually solved in 5 minutes. It takes time, prayer and it takes honesty with ourselves.
How is my personal life going? Am I spending quality time with God, my spouse, my kids? Do I have enough “down time?”
How is my work life going? Am I working my self to an early death, how are my work relationships going, do I have my work/life balance right?
How are my relationships going? family, friends, God?
How am I doing in my relationship with God? Am I spending time with God, do I commit my time to God in prayer?
Is my conduct something that would be pleasing to God?
2.Discernment. Once we have honestly reflected on where we are at with God, and you might have other reflection points, the above is a guide only, then we are in a position to discern where our Gaps might be. I might discern that my work/life balance is out of kilter. This is a Spiritual Gap as well as a relational one. It is a Spiritual Gap because when we have this work/life balance out of kilter it not only affects our personal life, but we tend to ignore God, because we are in a tunnel vision mindset. We know the answers, we can do this, etc. If we discern we are not spending time with God, that will affect everything else as well, we need to look further, but we have made a good start.
3. Plug the Gap. This is often the most difficult, and we need to be patient here, not lose heart, and give up when it doesn’t work out right away. We need to be flexible, and inventive, and determined to succeed, but above all we need to be willing to try different strategies to achieve the outcome of plugging the gap. If we are not spending time with God then we need to experiment. Can I get up earlier to spend that time with God? Can I allocate time in my diary for God? Whatever works for you. Decide on it, and try it. If it doesn’t work, don’t give up, try something else. If my work/life balance is out of whack, is it because of me, or because of my employer? If it is because of me, what can I do to rectify it? If it is my employer, have a chat with them. While this seems to be the hardest, it is not if you have truly reflected and truly discerned, in fact, through the previous two processes the third usually works its self out.
At the end of the day, we do have gaps in our lives, either personal or spiritual. They both impact on us whether or not we understand, or realise that. They need to be attended to, but they can only be attended to in prayer. So this Lent let us all Mind the Gap.