I have a daunting goal: I want to blog each day between Ash Wednesday through Easter about spiritual things. Of course, having an 11 month old at home may render this impossible, but I’m still going to try.
I, at least right now, think I will mainly be blogging about my thoughts and reflections on what I’m reading in Scripture. That happens to be the book of Jeremiah…not very Easter-y or Lent-y, or Ash Wednesday-y, but hey, it’s where I’m at.
Today I read chapter three of Jeremiah, and a portion of the chapter deals with “true repentance.” 3:19-22 says, “I thought: How I long to make you My sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of all the nations. I thought: You will call Me, my Father, and never turn away from Me. However, as a woman may betray her lover, so you have betrayed Me, house of Israel. This is the LORD’s declaration. A sound is heard on the barren heights, the children of Israel weeping and begging for mercy, for they have perverted their way; they have forgotten the LORD their God. Return, you faithless children. I will heal your unfaithfulness. ‘Here we are, coming to You, for You are the LORD our God…’
And, verse 25: “Let us lie down in our shame; let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our fathers, from the time of our youth even to this day. We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.”
Can you not feel the emotion in God’s voice?? He wants to give His children good gifts, but they (we) constantly turn away. He, as the text says, longs, for us!! Have you ever felt that longing for someone? Of course. Can you imagine God feeling that way for YOU and then turning away from Him? Yes, I bet you can. Can you imagine longing for someone only to have them reject you? Isn’t it the absolute worst feeling in the world? That’s what we do to God all the time. Thankfully there is that one line that in verse 22 that promises if we return to Him He will heal us.
Contrary to what I have heard time and time again, Christians don’t believe that if you simply say you’re “sorry” about some sin or other, we can be sure that God will forgive us, and we can go on our merry way. That holds true ONLY if it is done with a contrite spirit, true repentance. Attrition is what most non-Christians seem to think we believe. They think we believe that a couple Hail Mary’s here, a simple, Oh, sorry I cheated on that test, there, will suffice. NO WAY. That is not true repentance, a sorrowful, deep, deep “sorry-ness” for your sin. Recognizing sin is the first step. One must understand that sin is a turning away from a perfect, holy, and just God to do what is deliberately contrary to His Word. And He only accepts a turning away from sin, a profound desire to leave it behind, as true repentance. Verse 25 describes true repentance succinctly.
So, in a way, this actually does tie in nicely with Ash Wednesday. In the days of the Bible, people would show their sorrow and repentance by putting ashes on their heads. Think Job or King David. It was a sign of deep, deep sorrow, but also of a truly repentant heart. That’s the sign we convey when we have ashes placed on our foreheads this holy day.