Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lent: It is Never Too Late to Surrender to God

Perhaps one of the greatest struggles in my life as a Christian has to do with surrender. I can pretend that in some way I have already done it, but in truth I have not. I continue to try to live on some level an autonomous life, maintaining an existence referring to, but not surrendered to, God.

Though baptized into Christ's Body the Church, confirmed, married, and ordained, I find myself painfully aware in various moments how little I have trusted to God, how much I am dependent on myself, my wits, my efforts. In short, I am a poor object lesson in authentic discipleship.

But, Christ heartens me with many stories of people who, like me, resisted the message in part and then finally came to accept it. What inspires me the most is that Christ seems to believe it is never too late to surrender to God in this life. The repentant thief, on the very threshold of death, was found worthy. Don't be afraid, even if it seems late in the day. This isn't a race: it is an invitation!

Being a Christian was never meant to be easy. The myth that it might be easy to follow Christ was peddled for a long time in our country, but that myth is quickly unravelling in our increasingly secular and spiritually-hostile environment. Living a Christianity of convenience--never truly an honest thing--is now becoming impossible. One either is willing to enter into the mystery of Salvation, or one isn't.

Lent is an annual opportunity to be utterly honest about this. We, who bear the name "Christian," cannot avoid the fact that to follow this Jesus means taking up our own cross, just as he promised. That cross is a sign of complete surrender to God: where God calls us, we must go. Ultimately, that means a call to the God's Kingdom. But it also means traversing some challenging territory on the way there.

Taking up that cross means things like being willing to be healed of our personal damage, having an openness to other people because Christ is found in and through them, setting others free by forgiving them, and being able to speak the Truth in Love rather than adapt one's self to the spirit of the age or to make things easier (though less truthful). Lent shows us in a mirror of spiritual honesty where we are running from the cross in our lives.

Surrender remains, for me, a place of great growth. I love God, but that love remains too conditional to be fully operational. It is a matter of deep personal sorrow for me, but even here Christ encounters me not with bitterness, but with hope. He holds out to me the promise of His love for all...even those who, like Peter, betrayed Him out of a love still imperfect and tentative.

And this is the message I desire to share with all of you today on this First Sunday in Lent. However little you have surrendered to God before, however halting your discipleship or imperfect your response, come to Him and confess it all to Him in humility and love.

It is this love, this humility, which is the key. Our surrender begins when we turn to Christ. He does the rest...but turn to Him we must, deeply and simply. Do not hide anything. Hand it all over; empty the pockets and turn them out; set down all the burdens you carry on your back, in your mind, or upon your heart. He welcomes all because He understands all personally, intimately--for He created us all and desires our complete healing and reconciliation.

As we walk with Christ to Holy Week and there see Him go where we cannot, we are given the opportunity to surrender all God once more so that we may receive our cross to carry with gratitude and thanksgiving, in His strength and upheld in Divine Love.

Pray for me, that I may do so; and I shall for you, as well. Together, let us advance in this sacred knowledge...the truest form of theology.

And remember, it is never too late.

A Holy Lent to all.

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