I give up giving up!

A Wellington Blog by the Rev Liz Johnson Blythe

“See, now is the day of salvation!”

2 Corinthians 6.2

I’ve had a enough of giving up this year!  I won’t detail a bit of it, because I know you have, too!  It’s Lent and maybe you’re expecting me to ask you to pick something you’ll really  miss and give it up, but I’m not going to give up a single thing and I’m not going to tell you that you should give up anything, either.  I’ve had enough of it!

When I was a kid, Lent was something other people did.  The school cafeteria served fish on Friday for the people who ‘did’ Lent, which was fine by me because I liked fish day.  I wished Lent would go on all year!  As I got older, people started giving up things like chocolate.  At University one year my roommate and I gave up cream cheese.  This was a HUGE sacrifice as we had bagels and cream cheese every single morning for breakfast.  Every day it was a struggle…not as much of a struggle as they year after University when I was working a job with genuinely crazy hours and I gave up coffee!  What WAS I thinking? 

I thought that the struggle was good…that the struggle is what Lent was about.

I thought the that struggle brought me closer to Jesus. 

The struggle wasn’t good, it’s not the point of Lent, and it brought me no closer to Jesus than to my long-term fitness goals.

Rather than a struggle, Lent is a journey into God’s mercy.  In some ways, it’s easier to struggle against ourselves than to accept God’s mercy freely and generously given to each of us in full knowledge of our short-comings.

In a world full of ‘buts’ – I like you, but…you’re nice, but…I try to be a good son/daughter/parent/friend/employee/person, but…I want to be a good christian, but..we are all too aware of our shortcomings, and because they are failings in our eyes, we expect them to be failings in God’s eyes, too.  Because they are hangups for us, we expect them to be hangups for God, too. 

They are not.

Can God see our faults? 

Most certainly.

Does God wish we didn’t continue to make the same mistakes? Undoubtedly.

Does God wait to love us until we get things aright? 

Absolutely not.

To paraphrase The Rev. Dr. Tom Moffat, “[God] refuse[s] to allow our worst selves to define our relationship with [God].” God’s love and mercy are given to you – abundantly, freely – right now.  There are no restrictions.  There isn’t a tier system to control it’s safe distribution.  God’s mercy is given as freely as birdsong.  The bird sings whether there is anyone to hear it, for the joy of singing.  God gives mercy to humanity with the same generosity and the same the same joy.

Let us not just recite words of mercy.  Let us not restrict ourselves until we think we’re worthy of mercy.  Let us spend this Lent embracing and accepting God’s mercy freely given to us, to our annoying neighbours, to our difficult siblings, and to our beloved friends.

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