Lent, the color of purple and church prayers invite us to ponder our sins in a way we normally avoid. At least that is what happens for me. I try to remember to repent. I really do; it’s just so easy to overlook my own sins. I have too many other things to think about. Even in prayer, I forget my sins and get on with what is on my heart,--what I want God to do for me.
During a Lenten silent retreat I forced myself to focus on sins. It was a slow and surprising effort. I always begin silent retreats with a period of confession. It just seems the place to start. But then I move on. I want to have adventures with God. During my silence, I want to be loved, make a connection, and find out what God wants me to do with my life during my silence. Rather than quickly cover confession I fully surrendered and even challenged myself to name as many sins as possible. I needed God’s help in this process.
I began by painting in watercolors what my sins cost me. I drew the rocks as I remembered seeing them through the glass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Israel. The former rock quarry contained white rocks uniquely divoted by erosion. As I drew these rocks, I considered Jesus’ comments that the rocks would cry out if the people were silent (Luke 19:40). I considered if they had to hold the Creator of the Universe as He was being crucified for sinful men by sinful men, they would cry in a different way. In fact the Bible does tell of their revolt--
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split (Matthew 27:51).
My heart was split as I stood inside that church waiting my turn to reach down and touch the rock under the altar. That memory penetrating the reality of my sin opened my heart to take seriously my efforts to repent.
I determined to repent as best I was able. I was sincere and God knew I honestly wanted to repent so He helped me. I sensed He was pleased with my efforts. He gave me a break when the time was up, and I had a chance to offer my act of confession by throwing the paper in the fire and watch them burn away. I felt clean even as I was writing them down, but especially as I watched the paper quickly burn up and become nonexistent. It was as if I went to a spiritual spa for my soul.
I put forth an effort to repent until God asked me to stop. He wanted me to rest. God’s answer to my sin is to take them away and give me rest and salvation. Isaiah 30:15 says:
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
I fully took this verse to heart. I learned the joy of rest. I wanted all of it. I didn’t want to be like the Israelites to whom Isaiah was speaking. I finished my list and sincerely prayed that God would help me not repeat those offences. I meant it with all my heart. I still do. The only way that I can possibly do it is to rest.
I hope you are finding the joy of rest when it comes to repentance. Salvation comes through repentance and rest. I can add that I feel stronger ,too. If the Lenten focus has not given you rest in your salvation, I encourage you to connect deeply with God during your efforts to repent. If God is the center of your repentance, you will find the joy, strength and quietness of rest. I hope you will have all of it!