Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and our priest’s brief message for the Lenten season was about aspirations. As you go about your own Lenten journey what are your aspirations for your faith and relationship with God? I know one of my own aspirations is to finally succeed in self-denial over this period of 40 days. Every year I say that I am going to give up something and every year I am faced with trials and stressors that test me. Sadly, I can always find a reason to justify indulging myself.
I am determined that this year is going to be different because I have a new plan. I am not going to rely on the power of my will. I have clearly proven year after year that will-power alone will not be enough to get me through this journey. What I need to do, is use this period of time to really and truly turn to God when I am struggling. I need to find a mantra, or a small prayer, that I can say when I am feeling weak, or being tempted and allow God’s strength, not my own, to get me through this season.
But I want to aspire to something as well. I’m not sure yet, but perhaps it will be that God is calling me to be more active here on this blog. I’ve already missed posting on Ash Wednesday, but then I thought about my reading today. It was from Romans 8:1-17. In this reading Paul is talking about “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering” and it goes on to talk about those of us who “live according to the Spirit” versus those “who live according to the sinful nature”. But there was one line in this reading that really stood out for me, and made me think that missing one day might be okay. I am almost always acutely aware of my own sinful, prideful, selfish and impatient nature. I try, but I fail hard, and often. But despite my shortcomings God continues to make his presence known to me in my life. Why?
This passage really summed it up for me. “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannnot please God.” (Romans 8:8) So then if God is present and active in my life, and makes me feel that he is pleased with me, I must be doing something right even though I continue to sin. I think that there are two key reasons why, and I could be wrong, I’m not a priest but I can share the truths I feel God has shared with me. The first reason is I try. I know I’m going to fail, God knows I’m going to fail, but I keep on trying. I keep asking for forgiveness, picking myself up and trying again (note: something to keep in mind for Lent), but even people who don’t believe in God try, so what is the reason I arrogantly presume to have pleased God?
Paul says in this letter to the Romans “And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully men in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans: 8:4) “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” (Romans 8:9) So what does that mean for me? It means that because I have invited the Spirit of God into my life, because I have chosen to make God part of my life, part of my daily life, because I turn to him in times of blessing and pain he is pleased with me. It doesn’t matter how many times I fall flat on my face. I have recognized him as my loving parent, and like any parent, he is pleased to be a part of my life.
God is our Father. He wants to be a part of our lives, just as much as we want to be a part of the lives of our own children, or as much as our parents want to be a part of our lives. Maybe your aspiration for your Lenten journey this year is just to touch base with your heaven Father on a daily basis. Thank him, cry to him, laugh with him. A relationship with God is like a relationship with anyone else, you have to actually talk to Him. And once you start talking, you might be surprised at how often He answers you back.