Every faith has a time of reflection — a time to step back and evaluate your life, your actions, and your purpose on this planet. It is an opportunity to slow down and assess what is working well and what needs improvement. As the Christian faith moves towards Easter (April 1, this year), the season of Lent is just that opportunity.
How is it that people are called to serve their faith, but also their neighborhoods, their workplaces or schools, and their creator?
People are not here for personal gratification. If that were the case, people would not have higher intelligence, or greater physical functioning than the rest of the animal kingdom. Rather, people are meant to be in communion with one another, to work together for the betterment of our communities, and to continually strive to make this world a better place to live. Taking time to reflect is essential to making that personal gain into a communal gain.
During the Lenten season, Christians are asked to fast, to remove from their lives something that is limiting their ability to be the best. It is a time to ask for support from God to remove weaknesses and to build up strengths to make them better. If saying unkind words is an issue, one must fast from them and pray for kind words; for some a fast from sadness is necessary to be met with prayers for gratitude. If one is pessimistic in their outlook, prayers to be filled with hope are lifted.
Reflecting on what is happening within one’s life is the ignition to renewing life. If the same routine is met day in and day out, then the product of what is lived does not change. Taking the time to consider what is important, what works, and what is truly desired is the start to reaching new goals, new achievements, and even making changes that affect not just one’s self, but potentially the lives of others around us.
Many people grew up with the adage of the Golden Rule, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” In the Christian faith, this is led by one of two main tenets to live by; Love your neighbor as yourself. Typically, this is a rule to be paid forward, always looking to others and how they are treated, and not as a self-reflection. To look inwardly might be a more advantageous way to begin comprehending what this direction of loving or treating others truly is intended to mean.
In order to love one’s neighbors as oneself, understanding begins with self-reflection. It is time to begin that season of reflection. ■
Christopher Heitkamp became senior pastor of Harlingen Reformed Church in September. Previously, he served the US Marine Corps onboard the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Long Beach, and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. Upon discharge, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Trenton State College (College of New Jersey), and a master of divinity from New Brunswick Theological Seminary. He was an elementary school teacher for 16 years, including time at Woodfern School in Hillsborough. He and his wife, Amy, have three grown sons. Pastor Chris also serves as head chaplain the NJ Civil Air Patrol, a domestic auxiliary to the US Air Force. ■