When I was a young boy, my parents taught me how to type on a typewriter, an old, heavy and cold type-writer. I remember very vividly that the first lesson they taught me was to constantly type the letter “a” and the letter “s”, which on that board would correspond to the two letters at opposite ends of the middle row. The keys were very hard to type and each letter was separated enough for my young thin fingers to slip in and cause me deep pain. After several hundreds of attempts, I gained certain dominion on typing “a” and “s” in a quick way and avoiding the fingers sliding along the keys. I learnt two valuable lessons that day. First, that learning to type with an electrical type-writer is less painful than a mechanical one (I shifted to the electric one some years later) and second, that dominion takes practise sometimes.
I share this story with you because with Lent, I find it a little bit like my typing lessons: it can be painful, it does not take one day certainly and acquisition of good skills takes time, a lot of time. I have recently kept away from posting anything on this blog primarily due to my hectic schedule and also, because I wanted to enjoy Lent as best I could during the busyness of my life. Yet, I wanted to share with you a bit of what God has been teaching in me. I hope you find it helpful.
As you may have guessed from previous posts, I enjoy practicing and living a liturgical year. Reliving the ministry of Christ, his passing from this earth and his life in general helps me gain some perspective and reality in my life. These events force me to wonder what it might have been having him around us in a bodily presence.
What I have been learning during Lent was nothing ground-breaking or new for you or for me but rather a reminder yet again of coming back to God.
Lent is commenced by the reading of this passage on Ash Wednesday and I think of it as an exciting passage that allows me to look inwardly, in retrospect and check how I am doing in my daily walking with God.
Once again, when I did this check-up, I didn’t like what I saw. I wasn’t doing as good as I thought. In looking at the sin beneath the sin, I saw that the idol that had dethroned God in my life was the idol of Approval.
I realised that in order to be approved by my community, by my co-workers and my family, I would do “religious things” like writing homilies, or doing a 15-day fasting.
I understood during the lenten season that I had to repent from this. I had to get back to the basis of why to do those things in the first place. Fasting without God is not fasting, but a lame diet or simply legalism. Homilies that do not praise and focus on God are nothing but the empty words of an eloquent charlatan.
I recently heard a girl saying that “recognising my sin is humbling because we acknowledge that God is the only one who can work on that sin.”
I read this interesting book by World Harvest ministries called “Gospel Centered Life”. This book suggested investigating your sin in the following steps:
1. Identify the sin that is on the surface.
2. Prayerfully consider what is the sin beneath the sin; that is, the root of the sin that is on the surface.
3.Worship Jesus for his victory over this sin.
4.Look up clear promises that you can rely on in order to defeat this sin.
I would add “Mark 1:15″ in between steps 2 and 3.
Focusing on Jesus in the Gospels has helped me see where my surface sin was. A friend of mine recently said that the Good News is not “good” unless we find ourselves in the story. And I think this is absolutely true. If we are unable to find ourselves in the redemptive story of Jesus, the story that we’re about to celebrate at Easter, then the Good News is not good, and I would even say it’s not even news for us. We’d become indifferent to the Truth.
So it is true that we are not perfect but there is beauty in that. Brennan Manning says that “All is Grace” and I find it quite true. If we look at ourselves, we may find nasty things that we’re not proud of or even able to change but in God’s Grace, we ought to find ourselves. We ought to look at Jesus and see where we stand. Some would find that they’re in front of the cross, looking at it and not willing to fully grasp what it entails, that Jesus died and resurrected for us. Some others would stand gladly behind it knowing exactly what is to come for those who wait in Him. I think it is a game of looking at our past, by holding it accountable in our present and looking with hope to our future.
“Our task in the present …is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.” (taken from N.T.Wright‘s Surprised by Hope, page 30)
That’s precisely our task on earth. A life filled with the Spirit should reflect this lifestyle that Wright describes. To me this Lent has been a refreshment to my soul in that while I’m not where I wanted to be with God, I know where I am and where I am going. To my mind, that’s the purpose of Lent.
My prayer for you is that you gain your identity in Christ wherever you are and accept with dignity and maturity the flaws that you bring to the cross.