As Ash Wednesday quickly approaches, I’m reminded of the unique opportunity we have each year to spend a season reflecting more intentionally on our sin. Now, for some that sounds like a downer. But my sense is that it is an opportunity to look a bit more carefully at our own hearts. The English pastor John Flavel said many years ago, “There be those that have almost finished the course of a long life who never yet spent one solemn entire hour in discourse with their own souls.” How much more must that be the case for us today, with the infinite number of distractions we have before us?
This past weekend, I spoke at a retreat for City Church SF on Luke 15, and we explored the intricacies of the human heart with its propensity to wander. In preparation for the talks, I could not help but see my own wanderings all over the place. I was struck by the paradox that I work so hard, yet remain so passive still in my relationships. My laptop is almost continually opened. I’m “tuned in” to what’s happening around the world. I’m continually reading, writing, and thinking upon these things, particularly in my role as a teacher and pastor. And yet, I can be so “tuned out” to the needs of my wife and kids. Now, it’s not like I’m surfing the net looking at pornography, or running to some dangerous vice to avoid reality. But, my sin is no less destructive relationally. So, I’m beginning to explore what it might mean to commit myself to more intentional relationship and less distraction. Lent is an opportune time for that.
When I was growing up, people in the church gave up things like chocolate and sweets for Lent. I’m certain God smiles on whatever we commit our hearts to, as simple as the sacrifice might be. But I suspect that giving ourselves the opportunity to be a bit more intentional about looking at our hearts and what keeps them from intimacy with God might open up new vistas of repentance. Even now, as I sit here, I recognize it’s time to put my laptop down, and check in with Sara. Frankly, it’s safer to keep it open, because in this world I have some control over things. After 15 years, she remains a mystery to me, and I often feel insecure and inadequate. Lent is an opportunity to move into places of insecurity and inadequacy, trusting that God promises to show in the dark and difficult places. God, grant me the grace and courage to move more faithfully into those places where I don’t have all the answers, and to leave behind those things that bring me momentary satisfaction, at least for this brief season of Lent. In so doing, I suspect you and I become a bit more like Christ.
Grace and peace to you.