Spring has arrived, major league baseball teams are getting ready to come north again, and another 40 Days of Faith has come and gone. How can we end a season like this, and mark what we’ve learned or continue new habits we’ve found helpful? I’d love to offer you four thoughts on this today.
- Write down, and tell somebody, whatever you learned.
So here’s the pro tip from this seasoned educator. Extensive research shows that when we write about and talk about things we’ve seen and heard and experienced, good things happen. We remember them better. We find ourselves able to make more meaning out of them. They sink deeper into our long-term memory and take on greater roots in our consciousness. Don’t waste any experience you’ve had during this season.
In my prayers for greater peace and joy in my parenting and pastoring, I felt like Jesus gave me three different images to continue thinking about in the months to come. I’ve written these down in a journal. I’ve talked about them with my colleagues and friends. You heard me preach about two of them (the “Where is the Door?” game, and Jesus coming to us behind our locked doors) at church on Easter.
Write it down. Tell somebody.
- Continue anything that is still giving you life.
We run this season for 40 Days because of tradition and sanity. But most of my friends who’ve participated in one of these faith experiments have found or remembered something that they would like to be part of their lives year round. For instance, each year during 40 Days of Faith, my prayer for my 6 becomes more regular, and I keep that going year round as close to every day as possible. Having most of our church praying for a few friends that don’t seem to be receiving much from God is one of the most important things our community does in our city. I think it has huge long-term implications for us, for our friends, and for our church. So there’s that.
As the guy who wrote the Romans Bible guide, I also found that once through wasn’t enough for me, so I’m going to read through Romans and the guide again. Other friends I know have hit Easter before without clear answers to their prayers and keep on with their prayer and fasting until they feel God has answered their prayers or otherwise spoken to them. So, there might be an 86, or 423 Days of Faith for you…
- Tell Jesus what you’re still longing for.
Part of the purpose of 40 Days of faith is to awaken our hearts, to reverse the emotional shut down that settles in for so many of us after we grow up, or in mid life. So if you’ve tapped into desires that you’ve been praying for and are still unsettled, talk with Jesus about that. Ask Jesus if you’d be better served by praying for these longings every day some more, by taking some action on them, or by letting them go in contentment and faith. But don’t just shut them down – our desires are a big part of what makes us human, and of how God speaks to us.
- Memorialize anything worth celebrating or remembering.
There’s an ancient Hebrew practice, seen in many other cultures as well, of making small memorials anytime people want to remember or celebrate something significant. Often these were cairns, like you see marking hiking trails above treeline, or mountain summits.
One of these moments is in I Samuel 7:12, when a charismatic leader of early Israel named Samuel marks an important moment of spiritual renewal and national victory for his community. He does it like this:
“Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, ‘Up to this point the Lord has helped us!'”
Here are just a few more examples of this kind of thing.
If you feel that God has helped you or spoken to you in some way, memorialize that. Make a craft. Write yourself a letter. Plant a tree. Devote a night of your community group – if you’re in one – to this kind of thing. Take a friend out to a nice dinner and make a toast about it. Whatever works for you. It’s a way of thanking God, sharing the good news with others, and marking it for memory.