Lenten Reflections

Go! for Lent: Psalm 48

February 17, 2016
The Rev. Sarah Carver United Thank Offering Board, Appointed Member, Diocese of North Carolina

The imagery the psalmist uses in these passages is remarkable, particularly in how the writer describes God and Zion as the same: “Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God.” In describing Zion as a well-built and fortified city, the writer also provides an image of God as a place of both majesty and safety; an all- powerful God as an all-powerful city providing protection for its inhabitants. The psalmist could have easily ended the psalm here, yet the concluding image the reader is left with is that of God as guide who guides from Zion. It is this image that I find most compelling and most comforting.

I have found, lately, that my prayers are changing. In journeying with people facing both the joys and heartbreaks of being human, including life’s inevitable diminishment and ending, I have discovered myself no longer seeking out an all-powerful god, one I expect to fix things when they go wrong, or even one who will prevent things from going wrong in the first place. Instead, I find I am seeking to know God’s steadfastness in all things; I want to encounter God in the everywhere’s of our messy and beautiful lives. But not as the fixer--rather, I need God present as a guide and companion more than anything else.

Somewhere, in my journey of faith, it has become more important to me to have God near, to know God’s love and faithfulness, than to have God responsible for all that goes on, good or bad. I am not denying God’s power, but I am letting go of it. Yes, I’m letting go of the omnipotent God, but in doing so, I am better able to embrace the omnipresent and all-loving God. Decoupling God from being a force frees me from trying to wield God as a kind of spiritual stick whose purpose serves only my will. Through invitation and intentionally drawing near, I instead invite God and God’s will to draw near to me, and to guide, shape and form me.

Like the psalmist, I am making a claim that this God is my God, and that God dwells with me, and I with God, the God who is my place of safety, and who is walking with me on my worldly sojourn. Unshackled from the expectations of what I want God to do, I have set us both free from my one-way intercessions where I fail to listen because my demands are too loud. I have set us free from my disappointment because the outcome wasn’t what I envisioned. And I have set us free from my wanting to tell God what God should do and who God should be. In this work of releasing God from all responsibility for fixing and doing, I realize I have invited God to simply be with me, to endure with me, if necessary, and so have allowed myself to be with God in such a way as to change me so that I can accomplish God’s will, rather than me trying to change God to do mine.

So this Lent season seems to be, as if often is, a time to let go of things. But this year it is letting go of a kind of expectation, and becomes instead a time of openness to a new way of being with God and a new willingness to be lead so that God’s will can be accomplished through me. 

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