The Fellowship of Lent

8 03 2010

The Fellowship of Lent

The Lenten journey is not a sojourn taken alone.  It must, of necessity, be communal.  This stems from human origins, where it was declared “not good” for man to be alone.  And so it was that Eve was created.  Adam was no longer an island to himself.  But community goes back even further than Eden.  The first man and woman were made in God’s Image—a God who is Trinity and eternally participating in intimate communion.  Therefore, our choices and actions never take place in a vacuum.  Others in the pond with me will not be able to evade even the smallest ripples I have created.  This is the inescapable nature of the universe God has made, like it, love it, or hate it.

Our human relationships naturally form together in circles, from small (immediate family) to very large (entire nations).  Regardless of the size, each circle impacts the others.  Dallas Willard in his book, Renovation of the Heart, points out that the reason for the severe brokenness of our world is the starting point of woundedness from which we all operate from.  We each have been wounded by those we are in relationship to and in turn we lash out and wound others as our life progresses.  This is truly a hopeless downward spiral.  And only one force in the universe can break it.  Willard states, “Ultimately, every human circle is doomed to dissolution if it is not caught up in the life of the only genuinely self-sufficient circle of sufficiency, that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  For that circle is the only one that is truly and totally self-sufficient.  And all the broken circles must ultimately find their healing there, if anywhere” (pg. 180).

Willard correctly asserts that it all starts in the home—parents and children.  It is there that we all learn the two basic actions of relationships in this broken world:  assault and withdrawal. Even the healthiest among us react this way to their spouses and their children.  This is where the Church plays a crucial role.  It is in our churches, our communities of redemption, that families ought to learn how to break the cycle of assault and withdrawal through the power of the Trinity.  We all know that too often churches themselves are the epitome of dysfunction.  But it need not be.  The power of the resurrected Christ can come through as we extend forgiveness to those who assault us and refuse to push away those who withdraw.  It must be possible to love others well in this life now, or the Gospel is a farce.  In Lent we get to practice loving and forgiving as things that are possible only as we stand firmly in the all-sufficient life of the Trinity.

There is one other crucial piece to the puzzle though.  We must allow the Great Physician to enter into our own woundedness, no matter how painful, and give Him full permission to bring our broken hearts into wholeness and health for the sake of others.  This is, after all, a key component to Jesus’ mission on earth:  “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1).  To continue to deny Jesus entrance into our wounds is not just a detriment to our own spiritual growth, it is a selfish act that ends up denying others the love and acceptance they deserve from us as fellow creatures made in God’s image.

This Lent, do not be content with a little fasting, a little soul searching, and a little forgiveness of sins.  Hungrily seek out the full redemption of Christ for your wounded heart and your wounded relationships.

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One response

9 03 2010
Rachel

Rich, this is very true and insufficiently acknowledged in the church today. We’ve lost sight of the importance of looking beyond the perceived here and now into the “why behind the what”, into the reason for our action. We’ve chalked it up to our personality quirks as a way of avoiding the real issue (wether we realize it or not). Those quirks have roots that when left to grow deeper into the soil of our souls, infiltrate every aspect of our being and overflow the boundaries we try to set, spilling into our relationships. We inadvertently give our roots to others, our hurts now fester in others and the cycle continues. May the Lord help us withstand the refining process. The pruning is painful. The resulting healthy fruit is fantastic – freedom in the fullness of Christ – further up and farther in!!!!

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