Three weeks into the desert…
Smith has skillfully guided us today toward a question that also confronted the Israelites in the desert, namely, how do I deal with failure?
A people set out with fervor and claims of devotion to the God that has freed them. But they soon experience their own frailty. They long for the fleshpots of Egypt – the tagines of meat in the land of oppression taste so much better than a freedom their pallettes have not yet learned. They grumble. They rebel. They gather everything they’d pirated from that old life and turn it into an idol.
If Lent is about a being perfected in virtue, this midpoint in the journey when our will falters or becomes distracted has the potential to feel like defeat. We may come to expect the wrath that God is constantly promising in the wilderness.
But God never makes good on that ancient fear of condemnation because the wilderness is not about our virtue but about our trust and humility. Instead, like Peter who repeatedly denies Jesus, when we stumble in our fast or when we stumble again in the fruit of the Spirit, we are meant to strip ourselves naked and jump into the waters with Jesus for a new lesson on love. Naked into the waters, Peter jumps – a fresh baptism in the muddy Jordan every time we fall. A more penetrating and humbling lesson in Belovedness, once again.
Again and again and again.
Perhaps if you haven’t already done so, the remainder of Lent would be a good time to confront a repeat offense in your own discipleship – gossip, judgment, compulsive behavior, self-loathing. However, rather than ‘fast’ from it in solemn disavowal, perhaps take this second half of the season to pray the prayer of trust and acceptance that Smith offers. “God, I am what I am. It is messy and I can’t do anything better without you. I want you to do with me as you will, in your own time so that I my grow in your likeness… but not before I grow in humility and learn the true intimacy of grace.”
The Rev. adwoa Wilson