By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“But there’s also this, it’s not too late—God’s personal message!—Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins! Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God. And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. Who knows? Maybe he’ll do it now, maybe he’ll turn around and show pity. Maybe, when all’s said and done, they’ll be blessings full and robust for your God!”—Joel 2:12-14 (The Message)
As we prepare to embark this month upon our Lenten journey, we do so in the midst of a world that is in need of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The 24-hour news cycle means that we either hear about one crisis after another or, on a “slow news day,” we hear about the same crisis over and over and over again.
The mantra of relentless attack has crept into our conversations, teaching us to never back down, that the fight is never over and the only answer to any question is to destroy, even if destruction of one means the destruction of many and the obliteration of sanity and hope. As hateful words escalate, one wonders what will happen next.
In the midst of trying times, we are called during Lent to a time of self-examination and reflection. Through Lent, we are invited to be so curious about God’s purpose for our lives that we grow in closer harmony with the Almighty. Lent is a time for us to focus on our relationship with God and to take stock of our own spiritual condition.
Ron McClung in the devotional column, “Positive Perspective,” shared this story: “In a tattoo shop on a street in Kowloon, Hong Kong, Norman Vincent Peale saw this statement: ‘Born to lose.’ Staring at those words, he realized this was one of the slogans a customer could have tattooed on their body. Astounded, Peale entered the shop and asked, ‘Does anyone actually have ‘Born to lose’ tattooed on their body?’ ‘Yes, some,’ the tattoo artist answered. But then tapping his head, he spoke quietly in halting English, ‘Before tattoo on chest, tattoo on mind.’”
Friends, when we’re left to our own devices, it is easy to stumble into attitudes that make us think and feel defeated. Yet, if we follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, we can live in confidence that God’s Spirit will accomplish good things in us.
In this Lenten season, the question of self-examination and reflection resounds for us. Are we living lives that shine God’s light into the world? How are we practicing the means of grace through works of piety and works of mercy that point to the saving grace of Jesus Christ in our lives? Are we doing our part, in our own circle of influence, to speak words of hope and act in ways that build up rather than tear down?
During this season of Lent, may we be freed for joyful obedience. Leaning in to listen more carefully to God with trust and hope beyond the confines of the moment. Free from our own desires; free from the pain and incompleteness of the world.
Free us for joyful obedience, God, for there is no other joy than what we find when our lives lean in closer towards you. That’s what John Wesley meant when he shared with us the “means of grace.” It’s being free to give of my time, talent, gifts, service and witness to build up a community that honors God. Thriving together to discover God’s purpose in our lives.
What we are made to do is called purpose. God’s purpose for us is to bring him glory. Everyone brings God glory in a different way. God’s greatest desire is for us to have a relationship with him through Jesus Christ.
Indeed, Lent is a time to focus on our relationship with God as well as to take stock of our spiritual condition, growing in clarity of God’s purpose for us as we seek to be freed for joyful obedience and “maybe, when it’s all said and done, they’ll be blessings full and robust for your God.”
You’re made for this! May it be so.