Surrender: 1.To relinquish possession or control of (something) to another because of demand or compulsion. 2. To give up in favor of another, especially voluntarily
Has Lent been leading you to a place of surrender? Have you discovered that God’s ways are better than your ways, God’s thoughts higher than your thoughts? Do you have a hope of eternity with Him? An eye towards the future in the grandest sense?
The Book of Common Prayer in the service for Ash Wednesday (March 2, of this year) reminds us why Lent is celebrated.
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.“
How does this apply now? We are in the midst of the Lenten season. Easter is celebrated this year on April 17. Perhaps you do not attend a liturgical church or any church whatsoever? You can still observe Lent with the Lord our Savior. Keep a holy Lent by self-examination and repentance. I was terrible at this years ago. I knew all about self-castigation and beating myself up for things, so I feared this idea of self-examination. What if I got into it and could not find my way out again to joyful fellowship with Christ? Self-examination as I now understand it has to do with looking at the hopes Jesus has for me and how I actually live. Confess my wrongs, receive forgiveness and move on, returning to fellowship with Him. Brother Lawrence said to return to fellowship quickly!
Prayer, fasting and self-denial. Pray without ceasing (1Thessalonians 5:17) is something I aim for daily. Gets harder after 4 PM when I feel worse physically, but I keep pursuing the goal. Fasting this year, I am fasting from too many words. Fasting from thinking, like Catherine Marshall did, that my opinion on everything counts. Self-denial goes right with that too many words. I am trying to give up thinking I must have the last word on any topic. Reading and meditating on God’s Word. There is no excuse for me here. I have tapped into Bible gateway to help with that. Many of the versions they provide can be read to you. So whether I am cooking or walking the dog, I can listen to those 5 chapters of Psalms a day or one chapter of Proverbs. No excuses as long as my phone is charged! One way of meditating on the Word.
I ran into a person last week who balked in fear at the idea of Christians meditating. We are to center our thoughts, prayers and being upon the Word. How can that be wrong? Center yourself with “Maranatha”, Our Lord, come! (1 COR 16:22) or using your breath “Inhale: He must increase, Exhale, I must decrease.” (John 3:30). Meditate upon the Word. Listen for His instruction.
One thing that drew me to the Episcopalians in 1965 was the idea cited in this Lenten invitation: “And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.” The many churches I had visited read Psalms and spoke about kneeling before the Lord our God, but I never saw them bend a knee. The Episcopalians did. Regularly. Every service in prayer.
Back to surrender.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
We come to a place of genuine surrender when we realize the Lord has thoughts and ways that are continually higher than ours, better than ours, more life giving than ours. Have you heard the concept about parenting that when a child misbehaves after they have time to reflect on their misdeed you should ask the child what the punishment should be? Usually they choose something more harsh than we had in mind. So, too, is our life with God. His first choice is almost always to bring us to a place of life and that more abundantly. Not more things, but a richer, more authentic, Christ-like life.
Have your Lenten practices shown you areas where you fall short? Mine have. My prayer is that these revelations about myself will carry over into my Easter celebration and into the remainder of my life.