Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fifth Tuesday of Lent

But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses - Numbers 21:4-5

“I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” - John 8:21

"You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world." - John 8:23

During this season of lent I have found myself frustrated or disappointed about a wide variety of small or large situations. When I sit down to journal with God about it (my Lenten practice), I get the same message every single time - PATIENCE. Somehow every time I hear this message I am surprised by this consistent message. But soon after, what I was frustrated or disappointed about is resolved in a much greater way than I would have planned myself. I see myself, just like the Israelites in the desert. Easily worn out and complaining to God. It makes me wonder - why am I so easily "worn out"? How do I become resilient against these tendencies and how do I find patience and trust in God's time?

Today's gospel is perhaps showing us the way. Jesus declares that he is going away and the Pharisees (we?) cannot go where he is - even though they (we?) will look for him, they (we?) will die in their (our?) sin. He goes on to say "You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world." I have a literal sense of humor and so at times I do consider the literal aspects of the gospels, which can surprisingly give symbolic insight. I imagine the Pharisees literally searching the town for Jesus, meanwhile ignoring the meaning of the events that occurred. Don't we all do this - look for God, satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment in people, things, jobs, accomplishments, or approval? All the while ignoring or pushing aside the inner voice that softly calls our attention to a deeper experience of people, events, and the world. 

I find myself so easily distracted from this non-worldy mindset, this soft inner voice. The high I get from the approval of others or even the immediate rush from doing something new and exciting brings me back to a mindset of depending on these feelings, depending on worldy things. While they are not bad in and of themselves, my dependence on them sets me up for disappointment. In our humanity we are not perfect, we let people down, we overlook how we react, we get distracted. Jesus reminds us that in focusing these "highs" we belong to this world. 

It's hard for me to practically find a way to enjoy worldy experiences and things while not falling into the habit of depending on them, belonging to them. Perhaps we are called to find those places, people, or types of prayer that allow us to hear that soft voice of God reminding us to be patient, reminding us he is always with us, he never leaves us. Perhaps in doing so we will begin to look beyond this world and see God and Jesus hidden beneath it all.

Lord help us to recognize you, your call, your message. May we be willing to recognize our distractions and look to you for guidance.

Reflected by Joan Ervin

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