It’s raining outside. Why not pray a bit?
God of the sun and the rain, guide us today by your Word and your Holy Spirit, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover joy and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Timothy 6:11-16
11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will bring about at the right time — he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
“Be Thou My Vision” — Traditional Irish Hymn, performed by Audrey Assad (YouTube video for in-home worship: Click here for Video)
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Imagine you’re back in high school geometry. On the board, your teacher begins to draw a graph with an X-Y axis and then a curve that continues to draw closer and closer to a line on the graph but that never quite reaches it. Can you remember what that line is called? We call it an asymptote, and it looks something like THIS:
As a pastor, I love this image. As a human being, I love it even more. I think the Christian life looks a lot like that curve. We’re on a lifelong journey, always drawing closer and closer to the asymptote that is nothing less than the image of God and what we were always created to be.
But that journey isn’t always pretty, and sometimes — if not a lot of times — we find ourselves slogging through the mud. I take it that’s the hard reality behind Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6. “But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called.” Our journey in life toward God and his righteousness is long and arduous. It’s filled with as many failures and missteps as it is successes and right moves, and sometimes those failures are hard to accept. They feel more like going backwards than going forwards, and if you’re anything like me, you begin to wonder if you’re making any progress at all.
Five weeks now into Lent, maybe you’re feeling that way. How many more sins do we have to dig up? How many more prayers of repentance do I have to make? Can’t we move Easter up a bit? Alexander Pope was right when he said, “To err is human,” but the fact is, it’s still a drag.
Here’s the thing…it doesn’t have to be that way. The poet Nikki Giovanni reminds us not only that “mistakes are a fact of life,” but that it’s “the response to error that counts.” Confession — literally walking into the church to confess your sins to another person — this used to be considered a thing of joy. It was a celebration! Not only were you promised forgiveness, but you were given guidance on how to do and how to be better. Mistakes aren’t just a fact of human life. They’re a fact of the Christian life, too. They’re precisely those moments and opportunities where we can learn and be empowered by God to do better. They’re a crucial part of our trek down that path toward our asymptote that is Christ and his likeness.
Let me ask you this: How often have you walked through the backdoor and into the living room only to realize — all too late — that you had stepped in some mud and now tracked it throughout the house? And yet, the thing about seeing the Christian life as a journey is that it helps us appreciate muddy shoes. If we’re not out there getting muddy, then we’re not actually out there. When Marty came home with a new pair of light-up shoes from Target this past week, he insisted that he wanted to keep them clean. He even wore his old beat up pair on our family walk that night. But what’s the point of shoes if you never wear them because you’re afraid of getting them dirty? How are you going to become more and more like Christ if you never uncover and then repent and be healed of our sins?
The point is, we have to start somewhere. Slogging through the sin and mud of life is part of our journey as Christians, and as we grow more and more into God’s likeness, it’s only natural that we begin to see more and more of those areas in our lives that need to be transformed. One old saint put it this way: The Christian life is “making progress day by day, and ascending towards the perfect, that is, approximating to the uncreated One.” This doesn’t mean we have to like the mud (and we shouldn’t!), but we can certainly appreciate seeing it on our shoes. Why? Because seeing it there opens up an opportunity to wash it off and become more like Jesus Christ. And there’s really no greater joy than that.
God of the Journey, you have made us to be like your Son, Jesus Christ, and given us the grace and the guidance to walk that path. Let us not fear the mud on our shoes or the call to repent, but instead see them as one more step on our journey to salvation. Amen.