It was back in the late 1990s. I had been asked to fill the position of Junior Pastoral Counselor for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League of the Rocky Mountain District. The previous holder of that office had taken a call out of the District. For the remaining term, I would be the advisor to what was then called the Spiritual Growth Committee and the Spiritual Life Committee.
The Spiritual Growth Committee was in charge of the worship services for the conventions and put on skits at the rallies and the conventions. The chairperson of the committee decided we needed to be visible as a committee. Many months of discussion and planning happened before we decided that we would all dress alike each time we did something public. We decided that we would have special red polos made with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove (in white!) just over our hearts. We would all wear tan khakis. Red shirts and tan pants. People would know who we were and that we belonged together.
That is, until we went to Target….
We can plan and we can take action that we hope results in what we want. Our children begin college classes; husbands and wives marry; couples add children to become families; we start jobs and careers we hope will last our lifetimes. And, then, reality happens. Colleges close or our children change their minds about schooling. Couples go through divorces. Families experience dysfunction and tragedy and pain. What we hoped for lies in pieces on the ground.
“Instead of telling them to “get themselves together,” what if He was inviting them to be vulnerable and come to Him?”
We have a God Who seems to enjoy jigsaw puzzles—putting the pieces together into something amazing. I’ve seen the meme on Facebook and elsewhere that claims that 365 times in the Scriptures our Lord tells us, “Don’t be afraid.” That may be, I haven’t counted. Can you trust a meme? I don’t know, but I do know you can trust our Lord.
I have become familiar with a social science researcher and author from the University of Houston, Brene Brown. She is not a theologian—her story involves time away and back again with her Christian faith. (I wonder if she has also discovered God enjoys putting jigsaw puzzles together?) She offers a definition of courage: “Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” So, when Jesus met the disciples in the middle of the night during a terrible storm and told them to “take courage,” perhaps He was inviting them to tell Him all that was in their hearts. Instead of telling them to “get themselves together,” what if He was inviting them to be vulnerable and come to Him?
During Lent, we are borrowing heavily from a program developed by a Lutheran pastor named “The Red Letter Challenge.” Why? So that you and I can intentionally listen to Jesus’ words. Reflect on those words. Listen to Him and hear Him call us to Himself. Some of the challenges the RLC may suggest may not “fit” you, but the challenge and invitation that Jesus offers you to be vulnerable and tell Him your heart will fit you. Take the advice on the daily devotional slides and read that word from Jesus—or just start reading the words of Jesus yourself. However you do it, listen to Jesus. His words will direct you. His words might confront you. His words will comfort you. I guess, that is the purpose behind the Lenten season.
Enjoy the journey with Jesus,
Pastor Jeff Shearier