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I need to find that God is THERE! (a thought about why I need Lent)

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Psalm 139:7-8 (NKJV)

Now when people have learned and become aware from the commandments of their powerlessness, they become fearful as to how they will be able to satisfy the law. For the commandment must certainly be fulfilled, or they will be damned. They become completely humbled and reduced to nothing in their own eyes. They find nothing in themselves that might make them righteous. At this point, the other word, the divine promise and assurance, comes and speaks to them: “If you would like to fulfill all the commands, become free of all your covetous desires and your sin, as the commandments compel and require. Look here: believe in Christ, in whom I promise you all grace, righteousness, peace, and freedom. Believe, and you have it; don’t believe, and you won’t have it.17 For what is impossible to you through all the works of the commandments, which are so many but are of no use anyway, is quickly and easily done by faith. For I have placed all things in a compact form inside faith, so that whoever has faith has all things and is saved, and whoever does not have faith has nothing.”

Once upon a time, I was a non-denominational pastor. As such, I looked at Lent and Ash Wednesday with a negative eye. I thought it was all a bunch of hype, some innovative way to subject people, and steal from them the meager joys they have earned.

I had grown up Roman Catholic, and I had some good mentors in the faith. Fr. Alex and Sister Ursula made sure we understood why we did things, not just hearing that we had to do so. But even with that, I thought to take 40 days out to weep and grieve over our sins and my sins was a bit overkill. And to wear an ash cross on my forehead for a day? (Well at least that would stop an aunt or two from kissing my forehead!)

Yet, the older I get, the more experienced I get with my own guilt and shame, the more I need to spend that time, examining myself. Not to beat me down, or just to endure discomfort as if that can bribe God to keep me out of hell.

I need these forty days. I need to process the way I am when I set God aside.

Again, not to dwell in grief or shame indefinitely, but to remember what the psalmist said, You are there!

I can’t get away from the God who loves me, who loves me even “THERE.”

I need to know that even there I can go to Him, confess that I’ve sinned, that I’ve depended on other “gods”, that i’ve not dealt well with wanting revenge, or feelings of lust, or wanting that which isn’t mine, I need to be free from the anxiety caused by not respecting those who God’s put into authority, and from the sin of gossip and trying to defame others.

I need to know that even in the midst of sin, God is there to bring healing and hope into my darkness. And let’s be honest, just because I am a Christian and a pastor doesn’t mean I still don’t struggle with the darkness of sin in my life.

Lent, and especially Ash Wednesday, is an awesome time. We can stop playing the hypocrite, we can stop pretending our sin is justifiable, we can grieve what we’ve done, while rejoicing in the mercy and love that cleanses us. In the midst of such meditation, in the midst of such honest evaluation, I find this, that God is there, responding to our need, and that brings about the greatest joy!

AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 74). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

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