12 “Even now,” declares
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
A Call to Return: A Great Invitation
WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This reflection contains more good news for those who are struggling, sick, discouraged, and weighed down by life’s cares than for those who have it all together and figured out already.
Repentance. This word can conjure up harsh and somber images of penitence, or perhaps stir up a sense of obligation. Maybe it reminds us of words spoken loudly by fiery street evangelists – a word that causes us to slink into our chairs. I wonder if we might look at repentance a bit differently - - as a gift or an invitation. God invites us to make a deliberate choice: to choose to turn around and face him once again, and let ourselves be welcomed into His arms – with all that we are and are not.
The prophet Joel reminded the children of Israel that “even now,” you can “return to God with all your heart.” Even now – as you struggle with depression. Even now – as you feel like you have forsaken God. Even now – as you feel like God has forsaken you. Even now – as your life is not turning out the way you thought it would. Even now – as you or your loved ones are suddenly plagued with illness that you did not expect. Even now – as life is good and happy and you don’t feel the same need for God. Even now, God says “come back to me.”
As Lent approaches, let us consider this invitation. It is a call to come back again to our maker, the one who knows and loves us full well. But if it is anything like Jesus’ call, we know that it is an invitation to death. In returning again to God, He invites us to give Him all of our fears, anxieties, addictions, illnesses, debt, and sorrows. He asks us to give him the things that weigh us down. God, who is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love calls us to Himself. He asks us for our dreams, our ways of thinking, our hearts, and He asks us to trust Him. He invites us to bring all of ourselves to Him so that He can give us life. In this story, though – death comes before life.
How did Jesus do it? How did he walk towards the cross – walk right into death? Hebrews 12:2 suggests that Jesus looked beyond and looked ahead to life after the resurrection; he endured the cross “for the joy set before him.”
We’re all at different places in terms of relating with and responding to God. Some of us might need to consider long and hard before even daring to begin a slow pivot towards Him. Some of us are ready, right now, to run into His arms and trust Him with everything. It is my hope and prayer that in this season of Lent, we might at the very least hear God’s invitation to us.
God, in your mercy, give us the strength and courage and desire to come to you – to walk towards the cross - in joyful anticipation.
- Lisl Baker
Every Sunday for the next 7 weeks, we'll be hearing from writers and thinkers in our community on their journeys through the season of Lent.