EMAIL DEVOTION week of LENT 4
It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves. (C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity)
Oh so true … so very, very true … isn’t that always the way? We are quick to take credit, and quick to pass the blame. We covet the praise and pass along the criticism. We point the hand of glory towards ourselves and the fickle finger of fate towards others. And as Lewis instructs us elsewhere in this classic primer on the Christian faith, this is not done out of ignorance. We know the truths of natural law. We just choose to ignore their teachings at times. To a great extent, this is the reason for our need of the Lenten season. To remind us of the sin that so characterizes our lives. To confront us with the brokenness that is so much a part of our existence that it feels almost natural to us. To remind us that if left to ourselves, we are not only hopelessly lost, but endlessly unaware of our desperate status …. And to assure us that in the face of this hopeless scenario, God has chosen to step into our lives with an offering of salvation for our disobedience and forgiveness for our stubbornness. Is this God of our great, or what?
It is always distressing to me that during this severe season, when I should most easily understand my own brokenness, I instead seem to heighten my self-esteem even more because of the spiritual practices I adopt. Maybe it is the whole “Lenten Discipline” thing that fools me into thinking I take more charge over my spiritual life for these six weeks. Maybe it is the additional worship and study that convinces me I’m a peach of a guy after all. Maybe it is the simple truth that, like the Pharisees, I screw up my face and mope around to convince others that I am in deep repentance, and thereby think that I save myself. Who knows the real reason for my spiritual game-playing. It is no doubt buried so deeply, that I cannot be completely honest about it, even with myself. The important part of this formula — and that which serves as the crucial remedy for it — is that I am the child of a gracious God who chooses to save me out of God’s own goodness. No matter my sin and pride and puffiness, God steps in, clears it out as a thresher cleans the chaff off the wheat, and offers me true faith and life in its place. I, and we, are blessed indeed by such a God.
So, as you pray and meditate this week, take a real hard look at your piety and faith practice. I invite you to do this, not so as to beat yourself up over your sin, but in order to understand what is really going on here. What our spiritual disciplines can do at their best, is make us vulnerable enough to be able to hear the word of forgiveness and affirmation which only God can bring to our lives. If they don’t accomplish that, they are worthless. They do not justify us or make us more holy or faithful. At their best and most worthwhile, they turn our faces towards a loving and saving God whose death we observe as an event of Good News. Try wrapping your prayers around that irony – the very God we kill, turns God’s own death into our salvation.