I've used Sarah Parsons' A Clearing Season as the center of my Lent study. As I've soaked in these reflections for Lent, the beginnings of a rainbow has been created. Pink denotes last year's highlights, swaths of blue (a bit dark for a highlight color) mark the phrases I found particularly meaningful this year. It's quite possible that if I use Ms. Parsons book a third time, every line will be bathed in neon ink!
Today I finished up the chapter on consecration and holiness. Highlighter in hand, I surprised myself at how much blue page 83 was getting. This was a page on letting go and trust. This is the hard stuff for me. You know, "Jesus take the wheel" kinda stuff. Oh, page 83... every word so rich in truth. Hopefully with Sarah Parsons' blessing, I'll quote what I highlighted:
"Thy will be done...the most revolutionary words we will ever say."
"The prospect of relinquishing our lives to God's will can be terrifying, as it may have been at first for Jesus on that night of prayer in the garden. But this fear comprises part of a holy moment; it is endured and transcended so that God's will may be done."
"When we let go...we agree to take a secondary role in our life's project, allowing ourselves to be come servants of our growth rather than its masters."
"Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac...this story is not a lesson in how to treat a son; rather it is a lesson in ultimate trust. It teaches us to put God's will before all else, even above our most powerful instincts and deepest loves, even above love like that of an aging father for his son. Abraham's willingness to let go of his greatest earthly joy demonstrated the extent of his submission to God's will."
"We transcend fear by letting go, by saying, 'Thy will be done.' and trusting that God's will is good."
In a Lenten season marked by the desire to deepen my faith, to relinquish control, and to have a deeper understanding of God's power - I'd say page 83 nailed it. I came into Lent with a heavy heart because of the rules, perimeters, and expectations I had placed on what and how my Lent should be. I will probably ALWAYS struggle with control. Wanting control, desiring to be "in the know" is a part of who I am and how God created me. But I'm learning day after day that a part of why God gave me a desire for control was so that I had something to offer Him. There are days when I am weak, worn out, overwhelmed, and feeling pretty inadequate. God says, "Great. just give me the control you're so desperately grasping for....you know, the stuff that is slipping through your fingertips anyway. The stuff that has you in knots, the circumstances you can't even control no matter what you know...give it to Me."
And when I do, I am freed.
Then there are the things I try to and want to control day after day: my relationships, my kid's relationships, volunteers, schedules, my 14-year-old dog's arthritis pain, laundry, the weather (and my grumpy response to another rainy day), ETC. Deep sigh, so much et cetera. And perhaps when I look at God's grace, here's where the Holy Spirit's power is deeply rooted. Every day the Spirit mercifully allows me to say, "Here, take it. It's yours - again."
The story of Abraham and Isaac still scares me. With all my talk about trust, faith, and God's goodness, I still don't want to let go of my greatest earthy joys. Does anyone? I don't care how righteous you are, saying, "sure God take my kid" is an absolutely horrific thought. I've said countless times that I can't even imagine being willing to lose my 10-month-old puppy Bella. This is simply a sacrifice I don't know how I could choose to endure, let alone an actual human - I gave birth to it, raised it, and loved it child.
What I have come to recognize, what this clearing season has done in me, is to accept that my peace, my joy, doesn't always come from becoming a person who dislikes control. But rather, each day I wake up with more certainty that God is good, and I'm willing to place my offerings in the hands of my Lord.
So here I stand (or sit in bed) with two offerings before God: my control and my fear. Yes, yes, I'll give Him my love, devotion, acts of service too - the pretty stuff. But for tonight I want to remember that it's the ugly stuff (big and small) that God is also pleased with as an offering. Thy will be done.