I am late to Lent in more ways than one. In this time I was asked to give up my anger against God and all of the words and actions fueled by that anger. And to follow Jesus. So I'm journaling through this, my first ever Lenten season. You are welcome to start the journey with me here.
I am still on a high from last night’s gift. It’s hard to come down to enter into Lent, but maybe that’s a wrong hearted idea of Lent. I believe Jesus embraced His moments walking here, our Emmanuel, God with us. So I can embrace the joy along with the pain. Yesterday in church, as I once again sang with our worship team, we belted the Revelation Song. I saw a picture of Jesus, leading me into a throne room to see our Father. I found comfort there, some things were said to me that I don’t quite understand, and I brought Him my grief, my shattered dreams and was cherished. So this morning with a thankful spirit I wanted to start on the ‘do’ part of my Lent: the part about following Jesus.
While I wait for the devotional delayed by shipping, I decide to read through the gospels; to trail Jesus as He left footprints in our dust. I start by reading the first two chapters of Matthew and I’m struck by Joseph. I don’t often think about him-Baby Jesus, Mary and oh, yeah, Joseph. It seems to me that Joseph’s dreams were shattered by God’s plan. Who dreams of marrying a pregnant fiancé carrying someone else’s baby when (almost) everyone around you thinks you a liar or a fool? I can only imagine that he dreamt of looking into his first son’s face and searching for his own eyes or a familiar wrinkle of the nose. And he didn’t get that. Yes, he was given something far greater, far more majestic, but first he had to surrender his dream. And Joseph was given a choice as to whether he would join in God’s plan, but no one asked him to give up his own hopes. They were wrenched from him by force. He had no say.
Then I read about Joseph being warned in a dream to flee to Egypt in order to protect Jesus and the enormity of his responsibility flattens me. Joseph was the guardian, the shield, the earthly protector of Jesus! He provided food, shelter, affection, social status to the One through whom the universe was created. God became vulnerable and put Himself into Joseph’s care. Who was this man that he would be given such a momentous task? What if he had decided the angel’s dream warning was just bad fish? How could Father God entrust Joseph with so much?
As I type this, the words I heard Him say to me Sunday, which I did not understand, come floating back across my mind, “I trust you.” Awe, reverence and I don’t mind saying a little bit of fear.
Stones and bread. The refrain repeats before I leave my bed. (Hey, that rhymes...kind of) I’m still reading Ann, savoring her gift sharing, and she writes, “it’s the Word of God that turns the gravel in the mouth to loaves on the tongue.” Memory stirs.
Truth, I asked Him. Truth is what I need from you. I do not want to open my heart, invest my emotions into something that I created. I have no desire to spend time on crazy train. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?...If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9, 11 And I rested, only to awake several years later to a backpack full of stones and broken teeth.
I turn back to Matthew and find myself in the desert with Jesus, hungry, tired, tested. Immediately, the enemy begins with taunts, temptations of stones and bread. The Word allows God’s Word to respond. It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth. Matthew 4:4 Is Ann right? Is it not whether something in my life began as a stone but what I allowed Him to do with it? Do His words turn my stones into bread?
Next, Matthew 5 should ring familiar. I recite these verses every Friday night with friends, trying to walk in health. But the translation is different enough to hit me anew, soothing balm.
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you... You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
Matthew 5: 3-5, 6
Devotions for Lent arrives and in it I find this poem.
Great and Holy GodYes, God, forgive me for slouching into your presence, so sullen, and help me to want what I need…You.
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or sensitive enough.
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
neither Jehovah nor a buddy-
neither the “Great and Powerful Oz” nor the “man upstairs.”
to want what we need…
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
Devotions for Lent from the Mosaic Bible page 9
I’m not sure what to write today. I feel empty, dry but not parched. I read of kabod, usually translated glory also meaning heaviness and a chase to catch the moon to feel His glory and it moved me but today I do not share in the experience, just observe. I read but I am quiet. I am not angry; I don’t think I'm protecting my heart, just quietly uncomfortable. 213 on my list of everyday gifts reads unsatisfied heart-keeps on seeking but what does that even mean? I had thought of a search for beauty, a longing to understand, a desire to go deeper in His embrace but a mere ten minutes later I feel all muzzy, wrapped up in cotton and I wonder, are these just empty words? Perhaps I will write more later. When the fog lifts from the mountains, perhaps it will lift off of me as well.
I read offerings of Imperfect Prose, that community of artists and seeker and followers, and while the fog still shrouds the mountains in a thin haze, daylight begins to stream into my heart. When I finally read SuzyQ’s words “Embrace your journey. It won’t look like most journeys.” the light falls, illuminating another layer of shadow. I have said these words or something like them often recently, with great bravado. But in my heart have they rung true? Or was I just acting as if? Is this anger towards Him another volley in a long standing war against my own difference? Why, why can’t it be easy for me what seems to be so straightforward to all whom I see? My heart has cried this complaint in one situation after another for thirty years. Why did You make me and my story different when what I longed for was to be the same? My different has not even seemed brilliant or outstanding but, in my eyes marked, by failure. And I blame Him. Light falls on the ugly truth crouching in the shadows. I blame Him rather than accept, embrace my journey. It doesn’t look like most journeys.
Today I visit my hometown, Disneyland. I simply let the day unfold, relaxing in the generous love of a friend, and the ecstasy of a 5 year old at the Happiest Place on Earth. Late in the evening, my friend asks the question that leads to the tale that is the source of this anger He has asked me to lay down. I find I am able to share without fiery heat rising. Even when I share the feelings and perceptions I first had, I am trying to be careful that the angry words are not used; the accusations against Holy God are couched in a historical context, not as how I choose to see or speak now. But for the most part my heart is at peace, today, embracing His gifts to me.
if i do not worship You i will worship emptiness
and come up empty every time
if i do not worship You desert winds will overtake my heart
until the rock of it crumbles into dust
if i do not worship You poisonous bitterness, rage and resentment will steep in my life
leaving pools of deep death
if i do not worship You i will breathe my last
having never breathed at all
if i do not worship You
Today I want to see, serve and worship.
That was this morning. By the time I left the house in early afternoon to run errands a squall of frustration left me spent with salty tracks running down my face. This discontent bubbles up over something small, starting with missing items, seethes at a packed garage full of my house in boxes, a tiny room from which I run my full sized adult life and soon boils over into self-loathing and anger at God. I break my fast.
Oh His mercy in the midst of my failure. My final errand before meeting up with a friend (to borrow her dog) finds the two of us serendipitously at the same library. I join her and her kids to watch a puppet show. Witnessing a room full of children bursting with delight and fully entering into the joy of the moment, the storm clouds in my heart begin to break up. My eyes begin to clear.
Then tonight, as I choose and edit the picture for this week, I hear Brian pray “and so may we do our part well. May we be very conscious of what it is our role and our part is. May we have a deep understanding of the season of life that we’re in; of our current assignment in life, knowing that even if we are unsatisfied right now, there is work to accomplish before You will bring us into the new season. And so rather than focusing on the things that we don’t have, may we focus on the things that we do. And one of the things we do have is Your precious Holy Spirit to guide us. So we invite You, Holy Spirit, to come, lead us.” I agree and a downy blanket of peace settles on me. He sees, He knows my frailty; He still loves me and has purpose and use for me …now. May my focus shift onto the largeness of that truth and there remain.