Imagine if you can that one day you woke up and looked out your window only to discover that you could not see anything with clarity whatsoever. The trees are hazy and vague and the sky is a steel grey. You cannot tell the landscape from the sky. You rub your eyes. Hmm, curious. Your windows are very dirty. And it wasn’t just one of the window panes but it was all of them. You could not see out whatsoever. You discover that the windows had not been washed in over a year so they hazed over perhaps with a cobweb or two strung across a couple of them. How can you possibly see the sun shine unless the glass is made clear?
You can’t. You need to get the Windex out, give a few sprits, and wipe until they are squeaky clean otherwise the panes of glass will get hazier until one day there will be no light that can shine through. So too it is with our souls.
It can get pretty murky there if we don’t do some soul searching, spiritual housecleaning from time to time; actually on a pretty regular basis. It’s like emptying the recycle bin on your computer or clearing the cookie jar cache that has been filling for a while. To do faster, more efficient work you need to clean out and clean up.
Lent offers you an opportunity to do that. It provides a time to empty, to clean, and to return to what is good and wholesome for you. It is a time to realign yourself with the divine presence of God because God delights in us when we do. It is a time to turn yourself around, do an about-face towards a Godly life and receive forgiveness and acceptance.
T’shuvah. It is the Hebrew word for turn or to return. There are many places in the Old Testament where people were seriously encouraged to perform t’shuvah, to repent and turn yourself around. Ezekiel says to the people, “Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin.” (Ezekiel 18: 30) Jeremiah proclaims to the house of Israel, “Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, I will not be angry forever.” (Jeremiah 3: 12)
T’shuvah asks that we clean the windows of our soul and return to the view that once made us so happy. T’shuvah asks us to return to a God whose arms are open and waiting to embrace us in love not anger, kindness not malice. T’shuvah is a way in which we clean the hazy glass so the light of God’s love can warm up our lives.
The beloved parable of the prodigal son shows us that repenting and turning around is possible no matter what your state of internal affairs may be. We like to look at the younger son in scorn for his immature squandering of his inheritance. A fool he was but I’m afraid that we too squander the riches that God entrusts to us, or even worse cause harm with them or do nothing with them at all. When this happens our lives become alienated much like the son who becomes separated from the source of his living and being.
But he repents, when he hits bottom he turns his life around, when he tries to look through the panes of the window but could not see he did some spiritual housecleaning and it was painful for him. “He came to his senses”, the passage goes on. (Luke 15: 17 NIV) And when he returns home he is received by a father who throws his arms around him and kisses him, a father who embraces him with forgiveness and love. The son performed t’shuvah.
God’s love and grace are always offers forgiveness, we can count on that. But how much sweeter it will be when we have aligned our souls to accept it. MaryAnn McKibben Dana notes, “Flannery O’Connor reminds us that human nature resists grace, ‘because grace changes us and change is painful.”[i]
What do you need to do this Lenten season that will bring about t’shuvah? What changes need to be made in your life (no one else’s) so that you can live more gracefully and lovingly? Ask for the grace to see the deepest part of you that hurts, that has sinned. How might your life be changed when you’ve examined yourself thoughtfully, thoroughly? And then after the examination ask yourself if you will perform t’shuvah, if you will repent and return.
Tonight I leave you with questions. They are questions for which you only have answers.
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you as you begin to clean the panes (pain) of your soul.