Friday, February 26, 2010

Lent 2010: the darker passages of the Christian walk

For the last few years, I've been doing Lent along with some of my friends and each time I grow in my appreciation for its value in the journey of faith.  At its core, Lent is an identification with Jesus on his way to death.  Along the way, we discover the depths of our own sin, the effects and repercussions of sin in the world around us, and how essential God's grace and transforming Spirit is in our salvation from sin.

This year, I came across a group called CRM that publishes a daily devotional designed around the themes of Lent and I've been blessed so far by many of the readings and meditations.  Today's meditation seemed the perfect microcosm of the Lenten journey, so I thought I'd share it with you.  Links to read more and sign up for the devotional yourself follow.

Hosea 5:15 - 6:2
Then I will go back to my place until they
admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; 
in their misery they will earnestly seek me.
Come, let us return to the LORD. He has
torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he
has injured us but he will bind up our
wounds. After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us, that
we may live in his presence. (NIV) 

Some of the Russian leaders I work with were hungry for more of God and decided to go through the prayer exercises of St. Ignatius. One of the most difficult weeks is summarized by this prayer: “Lord, give me a growing and intense sorrow for my sins.” That prayer also expresses the essence of Lent.
Vladimir recently complained to me about his journey through this exercise: “Who wants to spend a whole week meditating on his sins? I’m just digging up all this dirt. Where is God’s presence in all this? I’m used to feeling guilty, or sensing the Spirit’s conviction of sin. But I hate dwelling on it all the time! I can’t wait for this week to be over!” “What were you praying for this week?” I asked. “Did God answer that prayer?” As we unpacked Vladimir’s experience of the exercises, we saw that God was indeed answering his uncomfortable prayer.
Vladimir had gone beyond seeing how his behavior hurt others and offended God’s holiness. He was realizing how his attempts to find comfort and fulfillment apart from God are self-defeating, how pervasive his pursuit of control is. Both effectively push God and his love away.
Hosea’s prophecy is a blistering litany of Israel’s misplaced search for control and comfort. God’s strategy is not simply to punish Israel; he wants to wean them from their false dependencies. He does that in love by leaving Israel alone with its sin.
The life God longs to give me in his presence is free of my dependencies. Something essential within me needs to change, and I cannot change it myself. Though God is the only One who can change me, my response is still important. Like Israel, we usually have to be left alone with the depth of our sin before we will voluntarily welcome the grace of true repentance.
When I spend enough time with the depth of my sin, I learn just how unconditional God’s love for me is. Guilt is not healing. At best, it produces behavior modification. Love is transforming. And when we are absolutely convinced of his love, we can cooperate with the uncomfortable convicting work of the Spirit.
As we learn to welcome the grace of conviction, he will accomplish the deeper work in us of developing a revulsion to sin and a repulsion from sin ahead of time. And it is in that transformational process that we learn to receive the deeper, life-giving streams of his presence flowing in and through us.

  • How has God been showing you your dependencies and your grasp for control? How have you responded?
  • How can you receive the latest revelation of your sinfulness as a demonstration of God’s love for you?
  • Pray: Lord, I am willing to be left alone with my sin, so that I can be transformed.

Here's a link to CRM's introduction with options to subscribe (for free) to the daily devotions.  May God be at work transforming you this and every season!

1 comment:

AndyAllenAnderson said... true, guilt is not healing...too many use it as a prominent leverage in keeping the bads on someone else...instead of exposing themselves...when we allow Christ to expose us to our broken selves, we begin to see how irrelevant they are to a reality in Him...guilt has the ground removed from under simply does not apply or chain us anymore...the drawback is that we begin to see how much others around us are so grossly complacent to their own sin...and it is hard to show them the outside of that box when they continually point our shortcomings...out of ignorance for control, they attempt to bring guilt back into the scene...