Lent was supposed to take me deeper this year. Lent was supposed to refocus my eyes on Christ. Lent was supposed to make my spiritual journey so... so wonderfully spiritual. Yes, Lent was supposed to take me deeper. But now, halfway through these 40 days, I see that I didn't take Lent deeper.
There is the part that God does; the miracle part in our transformation. And then there is the part that we do; the spiritual exercise of surrender. Lent is both. We stop, set aside, and offer Him our undivided attention, and He says, "I'm so glad you've come to me, I've got great things in store for you! I've been looking forward to Lent all year long, just waiting to give you these gifts. During the business of Christmas, I waited; into the New Year, I waited; as you celebrated two Saints, I waited. Now the biggest celebration of all is coming in just a couple of weeks! Don't wait another day, because before the resurrection celebration, I want to resurrect your spirit. Before the cross, I want to talk about the hard stuff I went to the cross for. Before hot cross buns and jelly beans, I want to taste with you the bitter sprigs of the passover dinner. Repentance.
Lent is the season for repentance, and repentance precedes resurrection - not His, but mine. Repentance...
Halfway into Lent and I am convicted that while God always does His part, I don't always do mine. He is there awaiting us in His Word, and we have the choice to sit down and hear from Him. He is there at the breakfast table, and we have the option to praise Him with our children, as sunshine filters through the kitchen windows. He is on our BIble app, but we touch F, for Facebook. He is in the sparrows wings, the butterflies transformation, and the surprise of the double rainbow in the backyard, but we take out our cameras to capture the image rather than lift up our hands to the One who crafted all of nature's miracles. He knows all our sin and shame, eager to forgive and mature us, but we move on in our holiday plans, with decorations and recipes.
Just yesterday a faithful friend of mine sent me a short note that read: "I thought of you as I read Lamentations 3 this morning." Of course I was too busy at the time to go deep where God was calling me - Lent is a busy time after all - so when I did opened up God's Word I absentmindedly ruffled the pages until I came to Jeremiah 3, not the third chapter of Lamentations. I read:
...you have lived as a harlot, a prostitute with many lovers—
would you now return to me?” declares the Lord.
“Look up to the barren heights and see.
Is there any place where you have not been ravished?
By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers,
sat like a nomad in the desert.
You have defiled the land
with your prostitution and wickedness.
Confused, I stopped short. "I don't think I'm a harlot. Was this verse really for me today?"
Later realized my mistake and I told my friend how I had confused Lamentations for Jeremiah, and she laughed, "O no Wendy, you could never be a harlot!" We went on to talk about the marvelous, hopeful, edifying verses she really had meant to share with me. But I continued to think about the harlotry that may be hidden in me still, and I prayed:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
God pursued me with these thoughts into the afternoon when I met with another friend for a cup of tea. We talked of many things - homeschooling, growing up, and marriage. But one theme caught my heart. My friend spoke of her own personal heart sin as something very slight rather than blaring. She shared how God has convicted her own heart of sin in layers. "He is so kind to reveal just a bit of our sin nature to us at a time; if He showed it to us all at once we would perish by the weight of it. Instead He peels it back, layer after terrible layer, so that we can slowly see and acknowledge our guilt."
As she spoke I understood. Harlotry in the Christian isn't always blaring, but insidious, slight and confusing. It can even be lovely and normal and culturally acceptable. But, if it separates us from Him at all... it is sin. Turning from Him, we prostitute our love, making ourselves the faithless harlot. And so today, before I am aware of the specific harlotry, I take up the torch of Lent again. "Here I am, returning to you, Lord." Jeremiah 3 lovingly goes on to the give the faithless hope.
“‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
‘I will not be angry forever.
Only acknowledge your guilt—
you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
under every spreading tree,
and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord.
“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband.
I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion.
Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart,
who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.
Sometimes Lent chooses us in specific seasons of our lives, and sometimes it chases us. Lent pursued me yesterday! And I learned, regardless of if I pursue Lent, He pursues me in His Grace and Love. He pursues without condemnation, to bring me to Repentance to prepare me for the Resurrection... One leads to the other and onto the other.
Grace to Repentance, and Repentance to Resurrection!
Here at the halfway mark!
To follow along another woman's journey this Lenten season, read what Anne Voskamp shared yesterday. "I stand at the sink and it’s an ointment of grace to have a season to repent. There are days you don’t feel the weight of glory but the weight of this whole gory, bloody mess that is called life together."