Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Beauty for Ashes

Lent starts tomorrow. This time of the year is one of sacrifice and preparation for Christ's sacrifice, passion, death, and resurrection. But i also try to think of this time of year as not just a time of abstaining from something, but of doing something. A time to take action, and make things different. A time to make things new in our lives, the way that Christ did for us in dying on the cross. I have been thinking a lot lately about obedience.
This past weekend i spent about ten or eleven hours learning about our mother Mary. I'm not even going to begin to try to expound on everything that i learned , but one of the things that has always struck me so much about Mary was her obedience. But it was not just obedience out of fear or out of obligation the way that it was for so many of her ancestors. Her obedience stemmed from a true love of God. Charity. The sacrifices that she had to make- namely watching her son, who she loved, die on a cross and suffer for humanity- caused her great suffering. But it was because she was capable of loving more so than any other human being that she was able to suffer so greatly.
The sacrifices that we make during this Lenten season should be made out of love, not obligation. Easier said than done, i know. So how do we grow in love of Christ so that we can sacrifice our lives for him? We need to grow in knowledge of Him. The more we know someone, the more we can love them and grow in unity with them.
Tonight i experienced a great example of this. I was talking to a friend of mine, and he shared an embarrassing personal memory with me. As he shared this little piece of his past with me, i felt my heart just...well swelling really...with affection for him and appreciation of who he is. I grew in love of my brother through a deeper knowledge of who he is and why.
As hard as this might be, my goal for this Lenten season needs to be growth in knowledge of my Savior. How can i claim to love someone that i don't know?

Christ was real. He lived. He breathed.
When he was a child, his mother probably had to kiss his knees when he scraped them, and he probably cried.
When he was just a little boy, I'm sure he wanted to be held, and played with.
He learned from his mother and father.
He had friends that he laughed with.
When he was persecuted and hung on the cross, he hurt.
He was a man. It's true that his humanity was simply a veil for his divinity, but that does not mean that he was any less a man.
He was close to those he loved. He even wept for them.

Christ isn't unreachable, far off, or impossible to understand. But, like in any good relationship, we need to put forth an effort in our relationship with Him. He knows our hearts. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves, even during those times that we choose not to acknowledge his presence in us.

I want to grow in my awe of Christ, and his gift during this Lenten season. What was going through Mary's mind when she received the news that she would be harboring the son of God inside her? I want to learn to live in Christ in that kind of wonder, and each time i receive him i want to swell with his love and his presence in me, and truly acknowledge Him.
I want to know the God who blesses us with beauty, for ashes and a garment of praise for our heaviness, and i want to sacrifice for him this Lenten season with Joy.

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