11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.
This week we will be observing Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday we begin our forty-day journey toward Easter. Marking our foreheads with dust, we acknowledge that we die and return to the earth. During this season, I always find myself in a very “self-reflective” mode. I reflect on how my personal life “measures up” to the life that our God calls us all to live.
If I am completely honest with myself, and with all of you; I realize that I woefully fall “short of the mark” desired by God and modelled by Jesus Christ. I don’t always think the best of my sisters and brothers in Christ throughout the world. I am not always as kind and forgiving as God desires me to be. I am not always eager and ready to publicly and at all times acknowledge the importance of God in my personal life. I often struggle with juggling my daily time schedule to make time for others. Ironically, in this holy season specifically designed to help me draw ever closer to God, I often find myself feeling “lost”. I can feel as if I am distant from the Lord because of my own unworthiness. I can feel as if I have separated myself from the Lord’s presence. Indeed, the more I reflect on God’s desire for my life the more “lost” I often feel.
At the same time, I am reminded that the dust that will be placed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday traces the life-giving cross indelibly marked on our foreheads at our baptism. While we journey through Lent to come closer to God, we have already been reconciled to God through Christ. So even when we feel “lost” we can trust that our God will “search us out” right where we live and will “rescue us from the places to which we have been scattered.” This is the duality of the season before us. Acknowledging our need to turn back and draw closer to our Lord while at the same time trusting that God is even now searching us out!
In a recent Bible study, I stumbled across some great wisdom from Gregory of Nyssa (circa 350CE). He wrote about the desire to increase religious virtue and stated that true Christian virtue is found in the “one who walks with open ears and open eyes (listening for God’s voice and looking for God’s presence) trusting forever in God’s infinite grace.”
Today, I share with you that this will be my personal commitment during this most holy of seasons and I invite you to join me in this spiritual journey. Of course, I always need a “catch phrase” to help me remember and so I offer the word “LOST”:
L – listen and look for God’s voice and presence in the world.
O – Obey Jesus’ directives to love God, love self, and love others.
S – See God coming to you in your obedience and openness.
T – Trust that God is directing your path and loves you just for being you!
Our hope and prayer for all who are reading this reflection is that during this season we all “draw closer” to our God. Deepening our relationship with our Lord and with one another. We humbly pray that God will make our hearts clean. Focusing on being “LOST” may help us all to more intentionally bear the fruits of mercy and justice God desires in this world.
I am wondering what spiritual practices or patterns of daily living you may be committing yourself to during this Lenten season? Perhaps we could use the blog on our website to share our observations and reflections about how God is moving in our lives during this deliberate time of reflection and action. In any event, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic.
Peace for now,