Lenten Reflection Day #5


The Bible is full of paradox.   On the one hand, we are made from the dust of the ground, the same substance from which every other part of creation is made.   Like every other living thing, we are destined to die.  To grasp this truth is to be humbled. 

And yet the Bible also describes human beings as being made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27)    In psalm 8 the author addresses God, saying, “You made (human beings) a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned (us) with glory and honor.”

There is a kind of pride here that is appropriate to human beings that is quite different from the ego-centered pride that is an expression of sin.    Have you contemplated the privilege of being a human being?   Have you marveled at a universe fourteen plus billion years in the making, waiting all this time for the appearance of conscious beings capable of mirroring the creator?

Lent challenges us to own up to our sin.   Sin is often thought of as “over-reaching”, wherein we pretend to be God ourselves.   This is certainly a common way for sin to be expressed.   But paradoxically, sin can also be expressed as “under-reaching.”   This happens when we refuse to embrace the gifts God has given us.  It involves claiming to be helpless at places in our lives where we aren’t really helpless. 

Both expressions of sin – over-reaching and under-reaching – have this in common:  a refusal to conform our will to God’s will for us.   If God tells us to shine our light, and we decide instead to put a bushel over our light, that, too, is rebellion, even though on the surface it may look like humility.  (Matthew 5:14-16)

Nelson Mandela spent over two decades as a political prisoner, a time he used for soul searching.   He came forth from that prison empowered to lead South Africa into a new, post-apartheid era.   I find this quote from Mandela’s inauguration speech, very challenging:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

 Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way.  Thou art the potter, I am the clay.  Where your will is for my clay to be shaped into a beautiful vessel for your Spirit, grant me the courage not to shrink away from your will.   Help me to acknowledge those places in my life where I have under-reached, that I might turn and embrace your grace.  Amen. 

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