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Faces of Faith: Are you ‘All In?’

By Staff | Jan 27, 2016

Awhile back David Brooks offered a great example of total commitment in his weekly opinion piece in the NY Times.

He told the story of an American man, who while playing the French horn in a concert in Spain, fell in love with a woman he saw in the first row. At the completion of the concert, he hurried to find her and introduce himself.

He quickly discovered that she only spoke Spanish (and he did not) which resulted in neither one understanding the other. He’d fallen so in love with her, however, that when he got back to the States, he could not get her out of his mind!

He knew with all his heart that he wanted to marry her. To follow his dream, he moved to Spain, found a job with the Barcelona Orchestra, learned to speak Spanish, and began a relationship with the love of his life.

Brook wrote that the couple had been happily married for twenty-two years now. The man described the whole beautiful process of what happened to him by saying, “Sometimes you just have to be all in!”

As I pen my thoughts for this article, I’m also planning services and other spiritual activities for St. Michael’s for the season of Lent – which will begin on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Teenage memories drift back of “giving up” something I really liked during the forty days of Lent.

I don’t remember that being a particularly spiritual practice, nor a proactive process of knowing God in deeper ways. For me, as I reflect, it was simply something one had to do during Lent, and somehow the “giving up” was supposed to do some sort of spiritual cleansing because it “hurt” a little not to have that special dessert or to go to the movies – whatever the denial was.

Actually, when you’re a kid, it did hurt a little I guess but it wasn’t that difficult an act of piety and certainly didn’t require that large a commitment.

Somewhere in my adulthood, I realized that little stand-alone acts of self-denial might be of some worth but clearly were not the most spiritual process in seeking to know God – if not accompanied by some deeper understandings.

The long season of Lent had to be something much more – something one committed oneself to wholeheartedly, entered into totally, and viewed holistically – so that the forty days of preparation truly became a process of metanoia – that turning around, turning back to God in new and deeper ways.

Lenten practices had to be more than stand-alone acts of denial. During Lent we need to be “all in” – as the man with the French horn explained – not half present, nor sometimes there, nor there when it’s easy, nor there just because it’s Lent and we’re supposed to be there!

I would also argue – whether you celebrate Lent or not – that we need to be “all in” with whatever we do to grow deeper in our faith, especially in how we interact with one another and build up the common good.

When we’re half present to one another, or there only when we have to be, or when it’s convenient, we do God and all of humanity a disservice.

Jump in with both feet this year and be “all in.” You’ll be surprised what a powerful difference it will make in your lives – and in the lives of others.

Rev. Dr. Ellen M. Sloan, Rector; St Michael & All Saints Episcopal Church