Yesterday in the Orthodox Church it was Forgiveness Sunday. My friend texted me yesterday and asked forgiveness. She didn't give particulars or specifics. She texted, "Today is forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church. On this day everyone who attends church asks each individual, one by one, to forgive them. So, to that end...please forgive me for all the ways I have failed you or sinned against you. I love you, friend!"
That's all it takes. A simple, "Please, forgive me for how I have failed you or sinned against you." I immediately texted back that indeed, I forgave her ... for what I didn't know or remember ... and asked forgiveness for the ways I sinned against her ... in thought, word, and deed both known and unknown. Her response ...
God forgives and I forgive. That's how it works.
Yes, that's how it works. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We don't harbor grudges, nurse grievances, smart under slights, challenge words of criticism, cringe when another is preferred (see previous blog definition of worldliness). We don't chew on these things or ruminate on them until they take hold in our heart. No. We forgive as we have been forgiven. We let it go.
Lent gives us a season to reflect on the ways in which the "world" has crept into our thoughts, words, and deeds. It gives us a season to repent of worldliness. But, what is worldliness exactly? Dictionary.com defines worldly as:
1. of or relating to this world as contrasted with heaven, spiritual life, etc.; earthly, mundane
That didn't really help me. How do I repent of things related to this world? There are many things of this world ... created by God ... that are good and beautiful and a blessing. Even mundane earthly things can be of benefit, so is it when the things of the world take priority in my thoughts, words, and deeds ... is that what needs repenting? That is always a struggle, isn't it ... putting God before the things of earth? I kept reading ...
2. experienced; knowing; sophisticated 3. devoted to, directed toward, or connected with the affairs, interests, or pleasures of this world 4. of or relating to the people or laity; secular; neither ecclesiastical nor religious.
Um ... still didn't help me get to a real meaning. Then, I came across the definition written by my spiritual elder:
Worldliness means smarting under every slight, challenging every word spoken against us, and cringing when another is preferred before us. The spirit of worldliness harbors grudges, nurses grievances, and wallows in self-pity. Worldliness in other words, fosters the blindness of self-centeredness.
Ouch! When this spirit of worldliness takes hold of a heart ... of my heart ... what is the result? Discord. Disunity. Discouragement. It breaks my heart. It breaks relationships with others. And, it breaks my communion with God, with my Lord. I get this. I understand this. And, of this with the help of my Lord and the Holy Spirit ... I can repent.
How can it be Ash Wednesday already? I don't know why I'm surprised that it is upon us. Like Christmas it comes with regularity, but I'm caught off-guard. Why is that?
I think it's because I'm always trying to catch up to today. All the "to do's" and people that need meeting and letters to be written and emails to read and ... and ... and ... . They all tell me that I am behind and I need to work faster and harder and more efficiently and ... sigh.
Thank you God for Lent! Thank you God for Ash Wednesday when I remember ...
... that you are God and I am your servant. From dust I have come and to dust I shall return. Not just any old dust. Cosmic dust. Dust that has the breath of God giving life to each particle of my being.
Lent is a time to slow down and ... R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R ... who God is and that we are His. Lent is a time to look at who we are in Him and sift and sort through that which keeps us from knowing Him intimately, keeps us from being more like Him, keeps us ... separated from Him. Lent is a time to deal with the sin in our lives that needs confessing and of which we need to repent.
While studying Psalm 51 I discovered that the word in Greek for God's mercy and steadfast love are the same. I stopped and considered that. God's mercy and steadfast love are the same for our lives, for my life, for your life. God's mercy. God's steadfast love ... His loyal love. Stop. Look. Listen. ... Stop. ... Look. ... Listen. ... God's steadfast loyal love is His mercy for us. It is His sure forgiveness for us ... if we take time to receive it. That is what Lent may offer us if we take time out of our "to do's" and away from all the meetings and letters and emails ... to receive it.
God's steadfast loyal love awaits us this Lent. What a wonder! God bless you as we begin this journey through Lent.