Today, we hear a lot about laws and commands. Moses declares to the Israelites, “you are to walk in his ways and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees, and to hearken to his voice.” Even Jesus tells his disciples, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Initially I can’t help but be reminded of the guilt and anxiety that often accompanies failed observance of these laws and commands.
There was an elderly woman who for a time I would visit with frequency. She was approaching the end stages of her life and she knew that quite well. She shared with me her memories, her family plight during World War II, and her struggles with Christianity. For years she tells me, the weight of guilt remained with her because she felt like she could not do what Christianity asked of her, especially to live out the command to love your enemies, to love others as yourself.
Sometimes I do not understand laws and commands. I’m sure God meant goodness when He gave the Israelites the commandments and the world His only Son, Jesus, who is the embodiment of the new law. Surely, God also knew how terribly we would fall short yet He gave the commandments and His only Son anyway.
We can resent and often dwell on our failed attempts at our observance of laws and commandments. We can also be trapped in the mentality that laws and commands are an end in themselves. And so, we can forget what God has promised through His Son, a redemptive embrace even in the midst of failures and shortcomings and a Spirit that will empower us in freedom to be perfect like our Heavenly Father. This is what I turn to during this Lenten season and this is what I hope for, for my dear friend.
…On a particular evening, she told me about her younger sister. At the tender age of nine, her younger sister died from tuberculosis. She softly spoke about a vision that her sister saw at her final hour. “Jesus is coming for me. I see him. I see him,” were the final words from her sister. Without hesitation, I told my dear friend that her sister and Jesus will be waiting for her in an eternal embrace…
Lent is but a time to recognize God’s desire for an eternal embrace, even in the here and now. He desires to embrace our failures, our struggles, and our humanity, so as to free us from our guilt and lift us to be a people holy and sacred to Him.