Lenten Reflections

Week 3 – Heart-breaking:  Changing my heart to see God in everyone

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.  This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.”
—Galatians 5:19-21 (Message)
Learning to love and appreciate (not pity) the downtrodden, the refugee, the annoying, the needy, the greedy, the disquieted, the selfish, the arrogant, is not easy.  But it is what God calls us to do.  This week we are focusing on the fruits of the spirit that appear in our lives as we become more Christ-like.

Having spiritual fruit evident in our lives is something we all desire.  It’s Biblical!  But we don’t get it by just wanting it.  It comes as both a byproduct of obeying and honoring God, and directly through meditation and practice.  And having an abundance of these Godly qualities allows us to more easily respond to those who bear “negative” fruit.  Join us this week for some practice in seeing God in everyone.

Joy, Joy, Joy in the Morning; Rejoicing for our Enemies in the Afternoon

“This is the day that the Lord has made;
     let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
—Psalm 118:24 (NRSV)

So Easy.

“Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NRSV)

So hard.

We can be positive when we see something God has blessed us with, but when things are hard, our moods tend to darken.  So how can we get more joy?  Two components seem to operate here:
One is Joy—what we feel in our hearts.  The other is Rejoicing—what we do.  And both are part of this same fruit.


Meditate today:

When do you feel least joyful?  Is it around certain people?  Does the weather affect you?  Is there a major issue with which you are dealing?  With what are you dissatisfied?  Politics?  Health?  Money?  Job?

C.S. Lewis, in Surprised by Joy, says that you can’t “get joy” directly.  When you seek it, it flees; and that’s because it is a by-product of other things.  In this case, it is gratitude.  When we are grateful and thankful our hearts are more joy-filled.  And then we are able to act—to  rejoice by returning our thanks to God.  Joy-to-Rejoice.

Of course, it also works in reverse.  We may not feel joyful inside, but if we speak God’s praise, name off the things that God has made that are good and then thank God for blessing someone or something (even if we don’t like them or are angry with them), we begin to feel more joy inside.  Rejoice-to-Joy.


So, practice!

Close your eyes and listen.  Name off everything you can hear, and thank God for each thing, and for the ability to hear it.

Open your eyes and look around you.  What can you see?  Thank God for things around you that are a blessing to you.  If you can see, thank God for your vision.

What can you smell, taste or touch around you?  Thank God for these things.

Think of someone or a situation that is frustrating or angering.  Look specifically for God in that person or situation—and then pray that God will bring joy where there is none.  And praise God for being faithful:

Hymn to Christ the Savior

You who bridle colts untamed,
who wing unerring birds in flight,
who steer ships along their course
and shepherd the royal lambs,
gather together
your artless children
for honest praising,
guileless hymning
of Christ, the guide of his children.
King of the saints,
invincible Word
of the Father most High,
wisdom’s Prince,
Ground of exertion,
eternal Joy;
Jesus, Savior
of this mortal race,
you the Shepherd,
you the Helmsman
and the Rider,
you the Wing that lifts to heaven
all the company of the saints;
Fisher of men:
them you came to deliver
from the waters of sin;
to fish untainted
by the envious sea
you cast the bait
of sweet fresh life.
Guide your flock of spiritual sheep;
guide, holy King,
guide your unsullied children.
The prints of Christ’s feet
show the way to heaven.
Word everlasting,
Age without end,
undying Light,
Fountain of mercy,
Doer of virtuous deeds,
exalted Life
of them that sing God’s praises.
Jesus Christ,
celestial Milk out-pressed
from a young bride’s fragrant breasts
(your Wisdom’s graces),
your little children
with their tender mouths
shake their thirst there,
drink their fill
of the Spirit flowing
from those incorporeal nipples.
Let us together
sing simple praises,
true hymns
to Christ the King,
our blessed reward
(such is his life-giving teaching).
With hearts undivided
let us sing to the Son in his might.
Votaries of peace,
we the Christ-born,
people of wisdom,
hymn we together
the God of tranquillity.
—St. Clement of Alexandria, Every Eye Beholds You