I’m observing Lent this year after never having done so for my entire Jesus-loving life. I’ve been going through the #SheReadsTruth Lent study having previously fallen in love with their Advent study (another Christian tradition in which I’d never really participated).
These first days are centered around Returning. On day one, I thought, “This is perfect. I’ve been out of the Word for all of January and February thus far. Here’s the perfect solution.” And it has been. Each day I wake up and roll over right into the Bible. It’s been wonderful, but I’ve also found myself rather confused and confounded by some things I thought I “got” pretty well.
I draw a deep sense of security from knowing who I am in the Lord, from knowing who He is, what He’s done for me, and how deeply He loves me and this world. This week, though, I’ve been led to see there’s still so much I don’t know and so many things I’m looking at through grimy lenses.
Day one I was struck with Romans 3:22-24. That God’s rightousness is revealed to all who believe “since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are justified freely by His grace. I was humbled by Job 42:3 & 5, about speaking on things that were too wonderful for me to know and really seeing with my eyes instead of just working off “rumors” or what everyone else has to say about God.
Day 2 looked at passages from Joel and Jeremiah and returning to the Lord with all your heart. One sentence that stuck with me from the devotional section #SheReadsTruth provides with each day is this: “When you doubt your whole, achy self is welcome in the presence of God, look to the cross.” I tend to doubt my whole, achy self is welcome anywhere (not church, not friendships, not Target — hide your crazy and act like a lady, right?), so them’s was good words.
Day 3 looked at Isaiah and 2 Corinthians, how the Lord “is about to do something new,” and “has made a way for us in the wilderness.” That He is “reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” and that we might “become the righteousness of God in Him.” My poor little brain and heart couldn’t take that in. I understand the idea of grace allowing gross little me to enter God’s presence, but actually becoming His righteousness seemed ridiculous. Slow your roll, Jesus.
Day 4 had us in 1 John (which is kinda one of my favorites in the first place) and verses 1:5-10, where my heart clung to “God is light, there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” I walked through the day with the framework that no matter what chaos or crazy popped up, God is light. God is good.
And this is the day my heart had that, “Aha!” moment. Those moments always feel to me exactly like that scene from Hook where the lost boy is squishing Robin Williams’ face all around until he finally sees the boy he used to love and exclaims, “There you are, Peter!” My heart calls, “Oh, there you are Jesus!”
After dwelling on this verse for a bit, rewriting it, praying through the words, I had the question: Have I returned? I’ve been meeting with You every morning, God, but is that returning? How do I know?
Reading over the verse again and thinking about God’s steadfastness, grace, and mercy, I had the thought, “God, I am fully welcome at Your table.” And then He said, “Yep, but you’re not choosing to sit there.”
And then I saw a Thanksgiving table, probably a lot like large family gatherings you’ve been to, where all the adults sit at the long table with the big chairs while the kids sit at a smaller table, still in the house and maybe still in the room, near the big table but not a part of it.
“That’s where you’re sitting,” I feel like He said to me, “There, with the kids.” And He’s not wrong, I realized. The kids’ table is fun. You’re loved, you’re in the house, you’re eating the meal. You’re free to put your elbows on the table, spill your milk, get up and dash around the house real quick when you think no one’s looking. You can see Jesus at the big table, sitting at the head, but you feel like He can’t really hear what you’re saying. The kids’ table is for laughing milk out your nose and making fart jokes. The big table is for polite conversation and please pass the potatoes.
The kids’ table is where I’m free to enjoy all the benefits of the big family meal, but not really be responsible for anything. I didn’t have to bring a dish. However, He said, “the big table is where my business gets done.”
Here’s what I know about big, messy, loud, real family, though. You get to have it all. My actual family isn’t big enough that we usually have a kids’ table and on the rare occasions we have more folks than will fit in one place, we don’t separate “kids” and “adults,” we just all spread around. Everyone is at the same table sharing food, laughing milk out their noses, and getting through the hard stuff of life.
And you know every gathering has that one person you HAVE to sit by at dinner. In my family it’s usually my dad, he brings the fun. Jesus said, “That’s me. I want you to sit right at my elbow so I can tell you how I see all the things going on around us.”
I’m afraid of the big table because that’s where you’re called upon to contribute to the group. You should have at least brought a salad. You’re not a passive participant, you are a part of the conversation. But that’s where His business gets done. I was pretty sure the only folks at that big table were, like, Mother Theresa, CS Lewis, and the current Pope. Only the big hitters. Everyone else can run around the house, but please try not to break anything.
This morning He said no, not just them, but also you. And everyone. This is where you NEED to be. And you’re still allowed to spill your milk. And I kind of also like fart jokes.
(That last sentence is not theologically sound, I’m sure of it. Just go with the metaphor, people.)