Today, we begin the season of Lent. Many will run to churches to get their heads marked with ashes, but for what reason? For many, the devotion is something deeply personal. They realize that they live less than perfect and they need forgiveness. The ashes on their head is a public statement acknowledging this fact. Over the next forty days, they will make a special effort to change their lives and become better people.
For others, the mark is something to show they have participated in a tradition. This might be a positive or a negative; traditions are simply that way. If we take part in a tradition to recall who we are, to reconnect to others and the past, it is a positive. If we enter a tradition and we don’t know why, but take the effort to unpack what the tradition is about, it is also a positive. It is only when we don’t try to learn the meaning of the ritual it becomes a negative.
My personal challenge, and, perhaps yours, is to unpack the ritual and the tradition; to acknowledge my sinfulness; to spend time changing the way I live and become a better person (to become holier, but not holier than thou).
In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34) If we honestly look at our lives, we realize how often we have rejected God’s love. We may have rejected this love because we are afraid of being labeled as a Christian. We may have rejected this love because we afraid that God’s love might create a desire in us to transform our love. We may rejected this love because we felt unworthy of this love. Whatever the reason, God loves us.
Likewise, we may have been afraid of loving others unconditionally the God loves us. We may think the person unworthy because of the way they have treated us. We might be afraid sharing that kind of love might transform our lives. We might be afraid of being see as weak and vulnerable. Regardless, God expects us to love unconditionally.
Sometimes, when we love, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, but never weak. Love always opens the door for us getting hurt. It is only through strength can we love.
“We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. ”
Love is always transformative, it is impossible to avoid. Through love, we open ourselves to new experiences that cannot but change us. Sometimes these changes our painful. Sometimes they are not. Often, they make us better human beings.
Because love cannot be forced upon someone, it can be rejected. Some forms of love, when rejected, can be heart breaking. Many writers have suggested that when Christ said on the cross, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28-29), Jesus was reflecting on how many people would reject His love. His wish for them to receive his love was so great, his wish became an unsatisfiable need. Imagine dying for someone who doesn’t even recognize your sacrifice.
Most of us are not called to lay down our lives for another. But we are called to love. Who in your life are you called to love today?
Each one of us have life changing moments: a brush with death; the death of a loved one; meeting a person; witnessing a tragedy; witnessing something amazing; experiencing something in a different light.
Below is a video posted by a beautiful and talented young woman by the name of Lindsey Stirling. Listen to the message she has at the end of the video.
Ever been to a new city, get on a road, and realize you are heading south instead of north? Wouldn’t it be nice of instead of having to drive what could be miles to find place where you can exit, you could just do a u-turn right where you were? If you are like me, you don’t because your afraid you might get caught making that u-turn; someone is going to notice your mistake. Or, perhaps we feel we are caught in the flow of traffic, and stuck with our decision; we feel we can’t turn around.
Fortunately, God wants us to notice our mistakes and allows us to immediately change directions and come back to him. There is no laughter, teasing, or shaming for heading in the wrong direction. Instead, he rejoices when we turn and head back to him. Despite what is going on in our lives, God will clear the road so we can turn around and head back home.