We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
Much of life is backtracking. Or, at least, much of my life is backtracking.
When we first embark on a journey, we hold our heads up high. Our vision is cast straight ahead, full of hope, full of excitement, and full of anticipation. Our first encounters with new friends, new lovers, new jobs, new adventures, are full of the same.
I find that my spiritual journey, which I guess just means my “walk” with God, generally aligns with what is going on in my life. As I enter new places and take on new lifestyles, and the excitement of the “newness” steeps in, I feel more excited about God. Fresh starts in life offer me a fresh start with God. As if God has just now joined me on the path I embark upon. It is in those times of my life that I find I am able to most love God with my whole heart, and mind, and strength.
But nothing stays new and exciting forever. Eventually we get worn down, and then bored, and ultimately uninspired and unfulfilled. This is why it is so important to take on new adventures with our friends and lovers, as well as new risks and challenges in our careers. We have to constantly push ourselves toward engaging with our whole heart, and mind, and strength, what is before us. The temptation to sit idle in our work and relationships is far too familar. And the temptation to remain idle in our walk with God is just as familiar, if not more so.
Beyond the monotony of life, love, and work, often comes calamity. Sometimes, life just does not work for us. And our attempts to improve our situations, oftentimes just make things worse. This is where the backtracking sets in. We are forced to make compromises, to scramble, and eventually we make desperate choices. In our struggle, our focus shifts inward and we lose sight of God and those around us. Somewhere along the way, we find that we have hurt others in this process, be it intentionally, or unintentionally.
For innumerable troubles have crowded upon me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see;
they are more in number than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.
This, I found, was a timely verse in today’s Daily Office. When trouble crowds us, we cease to see clearly and we walk out-of-step with our God and our neighbors. And, if you’re like me, you find it easier to blame the troubles than ourselves for any wrong-doing (see Litany of Pentience: Part One).
Another timely, and also totally bizarre, passage from today’s Daily Office was DEUTERONOMY 10:12-16
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer.
That last verse has got to be one of my favorites in all scripture: “Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer.”
I think this could be the message of Lent. Free yourselves of all that distracts you and keeps you from being in touch with your heart and the heart of God. Do not be stubborn. Trust your God. Walk with your God. Love your God. Love each other. And when you do not do these things, say you’re sorry, and try again.
Have mercy on us, Lord.