An Invitation

God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. (Romans 2:4, The Message)

And so here we are in the weeks leading up to Easter. If you grew up in a traditional church, you know this as the season of Lent – a period of 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to the events of Holy Week where Jesus met with his disciples in an upper room, prayed with them in the garden, and then was betrayed, arrested, beaten, mocked, and crucified.

I know what you’re thinking – let’s bring back Christmas, only with warmer weather. But go with me here for just a moment.

We really do need all of the seasons. We need Christmas and Easter, times to mourn and times to dance, periods of thanksgiving and periods of repentance.

This season is the latter, and we need it. I need it.

I have laundry lists of frustrations – frustrations with the people around me who insist on sharing my immediate space but not cleaning up in the manner I prefer, frustrations with systems and cycles that seem broken beyond repair, frustrations with the actual laundry that never seems finished and intent on multiplying, frustrations with our government and all of the people on all of the sides who can’t seem to act like responsible adults, frustrations with mountains that won’t seem to move no matter how many times I insist they do so, and wouldn’t you know it, frustrations with me – because no matter how many times I decide I’m not going to do the same things I’ve done, and no matter how many times I set out to do better and be better, I just can’t seem to get it all right.

I need some time to repent. Only repentance isn’t the act of seeking out more ways to feel guilty and sit in shame, and beat myself up over my faults and failures. True repentance means acknowledging my weaknesses, and creating the space and time to make the most of the grace being offered to pursue radical life change from the inside out. God doesn’t want my fixed behavior. He wants me – all of me.

A season of repentance starts with a season of willingness to be seen – to take off some of the masks and let the one who loves us most sort through our mess and lead us with kindness toward a better way. It’s a season of dealing with the root sins and not simply improving the fruit sins.

For some of you, this season may start tonight in a church service somewhere with ashes placed on your forehead to remind you that you are dust and to dust you shall return. For some of you, you’ve made a list of a few things you’re giving up to make you more aware of sacrifice and create more space in your life to pray. For some of you, you’re still trying to figure out where you are regarding faith and what you believe about Jesus, but I want you to know this season can be yours too – a season to ask questions and know that doubts are allowed.

For all of us, I want to invite us to a season of repentance. Don’t worry, laughter is still allowed (also, encouraged) and joy gets to be present, always. But don’t miss the opportunity to be still, to be seen, to be led in kindness toward life-changing, life-giving transformation.

Have mercy on me, O God,according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:1-12)

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