The season of Lent consumes most of the month of March this year. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. For Christians this is a time to simplify their lives, to focus on prayer, fasting, acts of service and other methods of growing closer to God. Some of us may give up something we enjoy for the season of lent, perhaps a favorite food (chocolate,? coffee?) meat on Friday, or a favorite pastime, to focus on Christ’s sacrifice for our sake and to repent for our distraction by worldly pleasures. If we’re really serious we may consider giving up one of our devices, such as our cell phone. That would be a huge sacrifice but certainly would leave more time for quiet contemplation. The point is to find more time to read the Bible, pray and grow in our walk with God.
When we were in Ireland last summer my family and I took a boat tour out to Skelig Michael, a pyramid island seven miles off the coast of the Kerry Peninsula. This slate-and-sandstone rock is 700 feet high, one mile in circumference and hosts no vegetation other than small areas of grass in crevices between the rocks. It was here, in the sixth-century, that Christian monks came to live the simplest of lives in order to be closer to God. They left all the conveniences of civilization which could have distract them from their goal. They constructed simple stone, beehive shaped structures to shelter themselves. They ate mostly fish, birds, and bird eggs and small amounts of plant life that could be grown on the meager land. They traded bird eggs and feathers with passing vessels for candles, grain and hides for clothing and copying scripture. Neither Viking attacks nor winter storms could chase them from their remote monastery for it was here that they could grow in their knowledge of God.
It is almost impossible to imagine surviving in such conditions today. However, this extreme lifestyle can be an encouragement to us as we strive to give up even the simplest of conveniences for lent. We have too many excuses for delaying that moment when we really “look” at Jesus and see the anguish on his face as he prayed and the sadness in his voice when he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” It’s uncomfortable to imagine the events of Holly Week as Jesus’ friends turned their backs on him as he was ridiculed by the leaders of the day and the crowds in the streets. Like many Christians I find it too easy to hide behind the busyness of the Easter season, dying eggs, hiding baskets, and talking about the coming of spring. However, I am humbled by the story of Skelig Michael’s monks. I wanted to share their story with you so you, too, could see the contrast between their walk with God and our hectic lives. I don’t want to live as they did on Skelig Michael but I do want to find a quiet place to meet with God on a regular basis to grow in my walk with Him. I hope my story will encourage you to do that too.