This is the fourth post of seven in Faith Bites’ 2017 Lenten blog series. If you need to catch up check out Repent, Pray, and Justice.

I’ve always been one to blur the line between reflection and contemplation. When I contemplate, I look at something’s surface level. I take the time to assess, and then move on. Reflection goes a step beyond this. It is the next level of contemplation. Reflection is when you make an observation, assess, and then use your assessment in a transformative way. Reflection is an active way of altering one’s preexisting self based on past experience. I’ve been able to distinguish between the two only after recognizing transformation – it takes time to notice this and it isn’t easy at all.

My personal experiences with reflection have always struck me as a late epiphany. Realizing an experience was transformative may take prompting from others, or even weeks or months of meditation. In one of my personal experiences, contemplation turned to reflection only after being prompted.

“Whenever I look around and see one of you feeding a camper through a tube, I feel overwhelmed. You all are not normal high schoolers. Most people will never feed someone through a tube and act like it’s normal.” I, and dozens of high schoolers clothed in pajamas, sat atop nylon carpet as we listened to one of the camp nurses share her thoughts the final night of camp. This marked the end of HUGS Camp – a week of summer camp for people of all abilities.

This past summer, I was assigned a camper named Sarah who needed total care. Myself and three others were responsible for all of her bathing, toileting, and feeding needs. Gathering up Sarah’s feeding tube, throwing it into her canvas tote bag, and slinging it around her wheelchair were actions that felt second nature to me by the end of the week, but this took time. I often felt defeated, overwhelmed, and incapable of providing for Sarah. I was eventually able to overcome this thought process when I realized our good moments outweighed all the difficult ones. Whether it was the laughter we heard from Sarah when the three of us would serenade her, to staticky music coming from the alarm clock radio, or the moment when we sprayed the worst Glade air freshener in the room of Sarah’s camp nemesis, she was absolutely beside herself. While the positivity moved us forward, my experience was only transformative because of the good and bad.

When I think back to the nurse’s emphasis on the feeding tube, I realize I felt most connected to Sarah and the rest of the camp at the dining table. Eating throughout the week was a communal action, and it set aside a time during which we all came together. The dining hall was a place where everyone could lay aside the difficulties or trials we faced during the day and just eat – something so human by nature, yet so powerful. Everyone in the dining hall received their food by different means, but we were one body nonetheless. The feeding tube was an object that possessed no significance in my life until this past summer. It was an object that facilitated a connection between me and Sarah. The greater importance of the feeding tube is that it helped turn my contemplation into reflection. It was after hearing the nurse’s closing words, the very last night of camp, that I fully reflected and understood my experience. Witnessing a united understanding of the abilities of all people was one of the most moving things I have ever experienced, and I take that feeling and still reflect upon it with great frequency. Again, my experience was transformative only because of the good and bad. Just as Jesus experienced the good and bad prior to the really bad that took place on the cross, his end, like mine, was met with the good.

During this time of Lent, I advise all of you to take an experience you frequently think about, and turn your contemplation into reflection. Figure out why that experience was so transformative and how you see it in your daily life. Lent can be seen as a time of darkness which ends with light, so let that parallel evaluation turn into transformation. “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” (Proverbs 27:19) Your actions mirror who you are, just as what you choose to reflect determines who you are. Knowing this, acting with thoughtfulness and consideration for what you reflect on is a reflection of what you value. Just as Christ was the perfect reflection of love, sacrifice, and compassion, let us go into the world and use our own experiences to reflect Christ living within us.

Taylor Jost is a senior at Sanderson High School in Raleigh and will be attending UNC-Chapel Hill for college in the fall. She is a member of Christ Church Raleigh and has been a member of the Chartered Committee of Youth for the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina for three years now. She says, “I’ve loved having the opportunity to grow my leadership skills, expand my faith, and meet many people through my experiences with the diocese.”