It is the gift of utter clarity

In this, the second week of Lent and what is springtide, I read something about winter that really resonated with me:

Winter clears the landscape, however brutally, giving us a chance to see ourselves and each other more clearly, to see the very ground of our being... It is the gift of utter clarity.

It is brutal. I caught more than a glimpse of the earth that has been buried beneath snow and ice for months, and it is the ugly and honest ground of our landscape. Utter clarity, as Parker Palmer calls it, is not always pretty. But it is a gift. And I believe it prepares our souls for the life and flamboyance of spring.

The 40 days of Lent can feel like an acutely long time. But if it is a journey to the broken body and the crown of thorns, where we stand without illusion or self-delusion, then it is hardly long enough. The tides of God move contrary to our human nature, requiring a profound act of surrender to a deep skepticism of self and self-distrust — so that our confidence and trust in God might prevail.

In this season of springtide, where the ground of my being is revealed, I am deeply grateful that the character of the Master of the Universe is just that, his character. It is not an ability — the grace, mercy, and love of our Creator is not dependent on my compliance or acknowledgement. When I have reached my human capacity to love my neighbor, the Spirit of Helpfulness can move in spite of my self, because it is in his character to do so. By the same token, the love of my Creator is not dependent on my obedience. Because it will take me every bit of these 40 days to stand before the cross without illusion.

In a reflection on Lent, Edna Hong writes that there is no motivation for acts of love without a sense of gratitude, no sense of gratitude without forgiveness, no forgiveness without remorse, no remorse without a sense of guilt, no sense of guilt without a sense of wrongdoing. We are impelled to act with love and to work for justice out of gratitude for the forgiveness of our wrongs.

It is with this in mind that I pray we be given a greater sense of our brokenness, without delusion, so that we might be spurred on to acts of love.

1 comment:

  1. Jessica- Your words here have, I think, a neat correlation with words from the Seek God for the City Lent Prayer Booklet today (March 14), as well as a passage from Ezekiel 37. Thanks for taking the time to write this out- the ideas here kinda served to jolt me out of the winter rut a bit and cast my view of this season in a new light. Goot stuff.
    Isaiah 44:2-5
    This is what the LORD says he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
    and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun,[a] whom I have chosen.
    3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
    4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.
    5 Some will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
    still others will write on their hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and will take the name Israel.
    “You have promised that your Spirit will descend like a flash flood, a force of life which makes parched places come alive. Cause this river to rush, bringing forth new sprouts of life in the withered places of our city. Young followers of Jesus will spring up, as numerous as grass blades and as powerful as trees. Infuse them with ferocious passion. Make these children to be our champions. Give them exuberant loyalty, so they find joy in the very idea of belonging to You. God’s name will be their identity and jealousy. His face will be their destiny and delight. Their love for God will be on public display, as if they had etched His name in their hands.” -from “Seek God for the City”

    Reflection: I’ve never thought of Winter as a time of exposing our weaknesses- or of the “dry ground” in this passage above or in Ezekiel 37 like a cutting cold air on a bleak day in February. But this mental picture started to expand in my mind: just like the valley of dry bones that Ezekiel is taken through- God takes us through a Winter of death and uses the landscape as a picture of our inward reality apart from Him: desolate, dry, buried in ugly layers, and cut off from a warm breath. We’re forced to come face to face with our own weakness, even close to the point of despair, as Ezekiel nearly was. (cf. Ez. 37:3) Just like the dry bones weren’t just bones, but represented a living people who were actually spiritually dead, so the desolate winter is not just a cold, uncomfortable time, but a representation of our buried, cold souls when disconnected from the warm breath of God’s Spirit.
    Yet it is in this dark valley that God, instead of destroying the bones, uses the dry bones in resurrecting His people into new life. Likewise, instead of simply pushing the snow out of the way, the once annoying snow is melted down by the rays of sun to bring new rivers of life to nourish budding trees and grass blades. But, even this process of melting is slow.