The way back is always difficult.
The path is often long. Arduous. Full of memories.
It’s not that you don’t want to go back. It’s just that going back means you have to face the truth. Back to the source of the pain. Back to the place where it happened.
But what happens if going back was part of the answer. I mean, what happens if acknowledging your brokenness is actually the part of the path that leads to peace.
Today marks the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday, the day the church commences the journey back to Jesus. It’s the path of prayer, reflection, fasting and self-denial. There will be more than one place where you are asked to let go.
In some traditions Ash Wednesday means the pastor (or priest) will place an ashen cross on your forehead, a reminder that “dust you are, and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).
There is sorrow for sin.
There is a reminder that we must go back.
And there is a deep sense that we will have to prepare for a holy death.
Not just His.
We will have to die.
To go back we will have to acknowledge that we are the created.
And He is the Creator.
So we go back to find mercy.
To confess and tell the truth.
In a time of great concern for Israel, God called them back.
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
Return to me will all your heart,
with fasting and weeping
Rend your heart
And not your garments.
Return to the Lord you God.”
Lent marks the path back.
It’s the reminder that we need God. Every bit of Him.
The gift of the next forty days is time. We have a lot to take in. Many things to consider along the way … Our hurt. Pain. Dustiness.
Matters of the heart are like that. They take time.
God doesn’t simply want our outer actions (the rending of the garments). He desires our heart. The deep change that comes to the one who meets God at the cross.
The holy death. The death of our Savior. The forgiveness of our sin.
There we are reminded that we are dust. Only God could do this (or is it better to say, would do this).
Yet somehow, when we arrive at the cross, we realize that this is also our death.
Something has ended.
‘It’s finished,’ he says.
We won’t have to come here again.
We can move on. Move forward. Move towards peace.
When we turn again to the prophet Joel, we hear that God isn’t finished. After his invitation to return, He goes on to what we will find when we return …
“For the Lord your God is gracious
and compassionate, slow to anger
and abounding in love.
This death. His, and ours, really is something.
Because in dying, we find living.
In dying, we find God.
Abounding in love.
I like that.
We’ve got 40 days.
It’s a long walk.
Some of it will be quite hard.
But the reward for the honesty, humility and death along the way.
Is the embrace from the One who abounds in love.
Father, in your mercy receive as we come. Amen.