“Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…” Joel 2:13
The words of the invitation which begins our Lenten observation still ring in my ears, for we are now just a few days this side of Ash Wednesday which began our Lenten Season. I find myself especially grateful this year to be able to remember that while Lent always starts in the depths of winter, by the time we are through it, we are welcoming spring. And yet, I don’t know why this is so, but for some reason this
And yet, I don’t know why this is so, but for some reason this year I’ve started to wonder if spring will ever come. Oh yes, by late February I completely understand why people intentionally build in breaks to travel to warmer climates (or even just leave us altogether for this long cold season) — as even a short time in the warm sun promises to make such a difference in building one’s resilience to make it through. And no, it probably doesn’t help that the season’s nasty cold has caught up with me. And yes, I’ll confess to feeling a certain level of smugness at my previous apparent good health. I mean, I thought I must be doing something right, at least, since I hadn’t been taken down by any of the awful bugs going around. And then I felt a tickle in my throat on a Friday night. And by Sunday morning I was trying to figure out how to baptize a baby without passing on the germs. I’m grateful it is not the flu, but even with ‘just’ a cold I am certainly reminded of the limits of this human body.
Winter does this. Colds do it. Any number of other challenges and limitations do it, too — they remind us of how very human we are and how much we do not finally control. And yes, this has always been one of the points of our observing the forty days of Lent — to be reminded of our basic human-ness and of our profound need for God. Some do it with sacrifice. And yet, it seems a bit cruel, at least in this hemisphere, that we do this when everything else is conspiring to remind us of our human limits. I mean, really, doesn’t it feel a bit like piling on?
I suppose this is why I have not for a long time been among those who ‘give something up.’ (I mean, I would do well to cut out the chocolate, but that’s a life-long challenge, not one reserved for only a short season.) No, for some time I’ve felt I’d be better off to add something in (which may, in a way be like giving up. Almost always something has to go away in order to add something new!) For instance, I would do well to give up my quick, automatic judgments of others in order to make room to be surprised. Or to dispense with speaking quickly in favor of listening deeply. Or to forgive a long-held hurt. It almost goes without saying that when resentment has a chance to build up in me my sense of joy is eroded and there is no opening for
For instance, I would do well to give up my quick, automatic judgments of others in order to make room to be surprised. Or to dispense with speaking quickly in favor of listening deeply. Or to forgive a long-held hurt. It almost goes without saying that when resentment has a chance to build up in me my sense of joy is eroded and there is no opening for new life.
Oh yes, the fact is that even these small things remind me of how much I do not control. I can give up my quick judgments but have no way of controlling whether I will be surprised. I can work at listening, but someone else has to be willing to risk speaking. I can forgive, but in that case especially, I am trusting another to receive that forgiveness and step into a new or renewed relationship. Oh yes, each of these and so many others push me to rely on a power greater than myself which we know in Christ Jesus who is the source and ground of our forgiveness and fresh starts and new beginnings.
I know we are well into Lent by the time you read this. Even so, it’s not too late to embrace the point of this season where we are called to return to God with all that we are and all that we hope to be. All you have to do is look out the window to get a sense of your own human limits. What would it look like for you to rely on Jesus in your life and in your relationships so that you might be embraced by all the good gifts God intends for you? What do you need to let go of in order to add something new?
If you are looking for a way to listen more deeply for how God works in our world and in our lives, consider dropping in on Wednesday morning at 9:30 AM or Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM as we consider Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 13. A daily devotional question to help you go deeper into these familiar parables can be found on our First Lutheran website at www.firstdekalb.or/lent.
Peace to you and many blessings,