One of the Lenten resources that I have enjoyed using this year is Small Surrenders by Emilie Griffin. In this book, Griffin describes Lent as a chance for a new start, an opportunity for us to joyfully put ourselves in God’s hands. In one of the daily writings she says, “One of the tasks we take on during Lent is to return to God. We want to cross the distance between God and ourselves.” Return to God. I have not heard our Lenten task expressed quite that way before, and the idea intrigues me.
According to Griffin, many of us remember a time when we were closer to God. In order to make sense of why we have moved away, we often look outside of ourselves. We blame our culture for placing distractions in our path. We speak of people in our lives that put us in situations that keep us from being able to spend time with God. We cite expectations that are placed upon us by our bosses or our teachers or our families and friends. We somehow make ourselves feel a little better if we can name an outside influence that prevents us from staying connected.
While external influences absolutely play a part in our ability to order our lives, deep down inside we know that we cannot always look outside ourselves to find the reasons for our drifting. Internal factors play an important part, and those factors are often more difficult to name. In particular, Griffin speaks of the way that our fears keep us from fully enjoying our relationship with God. She remarks that our thoughts frequently lead us to believe that God will require us to do things that we cannot or do not want to do. We may think, “What will God ask of us? Will it stretch us beyond our limits? ... We are nervous about getting some difficult call. We forget that the people who get those difficult calls are quite able to take them lightly – they are soaked in the grace of God....” Griffin believes that as we focus on how hard things are and what we lack in being able to accomplish God’s will, we underestimate the grace of God.
For me, returning to God partly means that we need to remember the character of God ... God is Love ... and the truth that God is always working for God on our behalf ... even when we don’t understand what God is doing. Last Sunday during our Traditional Services, young Jacob Gastmeyer was featured during the anthem with the Chancel Choir. During his solo part, tears began to roll down my cheeks when I heard his pure voice sing the words, “I believe in God even when God is silent.” To have that type of beautiful, childlike faith! If we remember who God is during times when we don’t fully understand what God is doing, staying close is a little easier. If we hold on to grace during times of challenge, we remember that it is not up to us. We aren’t being asked to follow God in our own strength. Grace is always present.
In the remaining days of Lent, may we name what keeps us from being fully connected to God and may we take at least one small step in God’s direction. God is ready and willing to open the door for us to come home.
Blessings and love, LuAnn