It’s our furlough. We’re on a long trip. Sometimes it feels like vacation. Other times it’s just plain exhausting and weird. Yet, here we are. With a bit of desperation and hope we search for refreshment. We reflect with wisdom (we hope!) and tell our story and wait for others – and God – to speak words of challenge . . . affirmation . . . acceptance. . . encouragement . . .
But, ultimately. We search for refreshment. We long for the eyes of our hearts to be bright and eager.
“The Lord will guide you always, he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land, and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”
Isaiah 58:11 had become a hallmark for our furlough. A prayer. A heart’s cry. A proclamation that if we sought His guidance, we would be satisfied. That if we trusted his hand, we would be strengthened and refreshed. Because, friends, everyone needs some refreshing. The Lord created Sabbath for man to rest. He instituted years of Jubilee and times for land to lie fallow because even ole Mother Creation needs rest. Needs time to pour in nourishment and put nothing out.
So imagine my surprise and bit of turmoil when I ran across this scripture in my morning Lent reading (not too late to join me! 43 days more!).
So, I really, really, really want the “seasons of refreshing” that “may come from the presence of the Lord”. I mean doesn’t that sound goooood. Soulful, rich, deep, and satisfying. Doesn’t that feel like the earth sighing when it finally rains? Or sleeping in Saturday morning, only to ease out of bed, wrap your hands around a warm drink and sit on the front porch in stillness? Just repeating the words soothes my mind . . .and spirit . . .and muscles . . .
Seasons . . . of . .. refreshing. . . .
Times. . .. .of. . … . refreshment … . and rest. .. .and restoration . .. and rejuvenation
which comes . .. . from . . . the Presence of the Lord.
It is from meeting Him. Seeing the Holy. Grazing the elbow of the Divine that I might glimpse refreshment. But there’s that one other bit . . .
But first, before that other bit, we must examine the reputation of “re”.
To be made fresh . . . again. To be juvenant and juvenile in energy and dreams . .. again. To return to a previous condition of grace and peace and vitality and wholeness. It is this expectation that it will happen over and over. It’s not a once-off return. It’s not a one-time energy boost. In the essence of these words, there is a root of the acknowledgment that often and always we will need to get back to the root. We will need to connect to The Source. We will need to tap into the True Vine . . . because we forget, or work really hard. We spend ourselves for the poor and neglect the selves in front of us – inside of us. We get swept up in the beauty of doing, that we eek less and less time out for being.
Life is hard. Ministry is hard. Loving people is really, really hard. Loving ourselves is really, really hard. The hard shouldn’t make us avoidant, but make us ready. That we might prepare ourselves. Arm ourselves for the struggle of it. Be equipped and prepared. Knowing the wounds in ourselves, so that we might heal and help offer water to the others suffering.
But there’s that other bit . . .
“Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out. . .”
There’s still something in me that cringes at that last bit of language. Too many years of hearing about a God who was scary and wanted to smite me, instead of a God who’s gracious and just. But let’s just go with it. Let’s roll with the language and accept it for Who it is.
The repentance. The returning to truths. The Recommitment to goodness. Again with the “re”. The knowledge that this will always need to happen. We will need to return again . . .
. . .. and again . . ..
. . . .and again . . .. forevermore.
Because I get swept in the busy of doing, and forget the critical nature of being. I get selfish and self-important, believing I can toil with my own strength. That I can love with my own heart. That I can serve with my own hands. That I have enough. That I, alone, am enough to save the world. And that begets suffering. It creates sin. It is sin. And not in this nasty, hellfire and brimstone way. But it a way that separates us from God. Because of His perfection we cannot sit with in (for long) in our filth. His very presence calls us to be clean. To BE WHOLE, friends. To be good, again. Because we are. We are enough. We are whole. We are good. But it is only in Him that we find that completion. That Oneness.
But I forget. And need reminded. And need repentance – to confess my I-Can-Do-It-All spirit. My self-important ways. Because it is only through this confession that I turn from my twisted ways back to A Source of Joy, and Peace, and Light that can only come from Christ. It my returning to him, I’m reminded of who I truly am. How this faith I have can move a mountain. How this Well of Life I know will never run dry. How this Manna I eat will always fill my belly. How I will be satisfied in a sun-scorched land and be like a well-watered garden.
And so, this time of Lent is of stripping it down. Of laying it all bare. Before myself. Before My King. Before His Throne. Lent is a declaration of my inability and nondesire to BE ALL AND DO ALL ON MY OWN.