We all have them.
Those days where it seems like everything falls apart. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we find ourselves drawn into circumstances beyond our control.
Our plans are forced to change. Our life becomes suddenly and inexplicably difficult. Frustration, exhaustion, and even anger all dig their fingers into the soil of our being.
When I encounter such a day, my mind inevitably travels back to Simon the Cyrenian. This was a man whose plans would be shattered. This was a man drawn into the midst of gruesome and debilitating circumstances beyond his control. This is a man who was changed by what he experienced.
And this is his story.
When Noah closed the doors of the ark, the rains poured forth for forty days. After the flood, it was Noah's family the brought forth a new humanity.
When Moses ascended Mount Sinai, he sat at the feet of God for forty days. After receiving the Mosaic Law, it was the leadership of Moses that brought forth a new Israelite nation.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He fasted for forty days. After His temptation, He began His ministry to bring new life to a dying world.
When Christ was raised from the dead, He remained among His followers for forty days. At the culmination of this, He brought forth the Church as emissaries of a new creation.
Today, we begin the season of Lent, a forty day spiritual journey to Resurrection Sunday. What will your life look like forty days from now?
Join me as we begin a journey of renewal, that on Resurrection Sunday we may also discover resurrection in our own lives.
In the area near where I live, there is a period between December and February that meteorologists refer to as a "season of fog."
In the early morning, driving through the thickening fog can be dangerous undertaking. The fog clings to everything it touches. It absorbs light from the head beams and coats the windshield with a diffuse layer of moisture. The gloom obscures your vision, and distant lights cast eerie shadows that tease the imagination.
Like fog, despair creates a unique situation for the person traversing it. For the one trapped in the gloom, despair seems to cling to everything it touches. It absorbs the light, it stifles vision, and it casts eerie shadows that whisper at the edges of the imagination.
It is consuming.
But, like the fog, it will also dissipate as the morning rays burn off the lingering residue from the night’s rain.
Here are three ways we can help that light to pierce those clinging mists.
Our lives are mosaics, works of art shaped and molded by the experiences that sculpt us. We stand amidst a swirl of color, evoking emotions both beautiful and filled with pain.
Some of these hues threaten to consume us: the monochromatic stare of pessimism, envy’s green tinge, the yellowing jaundice of fear, the scarlet fury of rage, and even the icy blue touch of despair.
Despite this, there exists a hopeful brush of pastel luminescence beneath these soul-stealing prisms of color. It is optimism, contentment, courage, love, and the sky-lined hues of hope that offer us a way back.
We are all works of art. We all have our stories to tell.
And we can all live vibrantly.
To paraphrase the German-American theologian Paul Tillich, faith is “accepting God’s acceptance of us.”
As simple as it is, there is a profound challenge behind that description. I know myself. I know the parts of myself that I am proud of and I know the parts of myself that bring shame.
God knows them as well. This makes the definition of faith presented by Tillich all the more poignant. God knows even the parts of me that I don't like.
And He forgives them.
That forgiveness should change us. If we internalize what the act of forgiveness means, the result should leave us shaken. If we soak in the implications of that simple act of grace, we can never return to how we were before.
Here are five radical ways that forgiveness changes who we are.