As we sit at the beginning of Lent, looking at 40 days of spiritual clean-up, it is easy to be overwhelmed. When we pause and consider where we are in our relationship with God, the distance we have to travel to get from here to where God wants us to be might as well be lightyears. At least that is how it often feels to me. I recall previous Lents...previous periods where I was determined make changes, to be more of the person God is calling me to be. But then here I am, still feeling like I am so far away from where I want to be.
Of course, as God so often does when we get to that place where we realize we (by ourselves) simply can't do something, He stepped in. Now I might have preferred if He had just changed me. But sadly I'm still not yet doing all the things He is calling me to do in my life, nor have I jettisoned all the bad habits and sinful tendencies I've accumulated over the years. But what He did do...was free me. Actually, He showed me that I am already free.
You see, if you are like me, you often fall into the trap of thinking that change is hard. You see your mistakes standing in your way...the consequences of choices you made in moments of weakness. You only too quickly become aware of your personality traits, your habits and patterns, and your failures. And then, even if you convince yourself you can work around all that, you are confronted by all the expectations of you...those by your spouse, your parents, your kids, your friends, your co-workers...even yourself. Change doesn't only impact you, it impacts those around you. It challenges the routine and the norm, and people like knowing who you are. They take comfort in that.
And so we have all these things to contend with. All these things limiting us. Or at least we think we do. The truth is, as God's children, we are a new creation. The old man/woman has passed away. We have been reborn. And like somuch of life, that isn't a one time thing. It is a continual thing. Each day, every day we are new. There is nothing to bog us down or hold us back. The past is the past. We can choose to be whoever we want to be today. We can choose to be that person who God is calling us to. Sure, yesterday you were the procrastinator who never got around to praying, but today....today you are that guy/girl who found a quiet place during lunch to just sit and talk to God for 15 minutes. Yesterday, you were the no time for chit-chat manager who was all business and never spent time getting to know your staff, but today you are the guy/girl who moved seized the chance to cancel an unnecessary meeting and instead walk around and spend a few minutes to talking to all the people on your team. Yesterday, you were the exhausted parent who couldn't wait to get all the kids fed, bathed, and into bed as quickly as possible, but today you are the dad/mom who decided the last 15 minutes of your kids' day would be spent doing something together, even if it meant going to bed a little bit later.
You see, there literally is nothing holding you back...except you. God has freed you. We are not bound by sin, by old habits, by tendencies, by weakenesses...by anything. We just need to choose to be THAT person...the person God has been calling us to be. All it takes is making a decision. And while changes may still affect others, the good news is that God won't let us handle that alone. He is working in their lives too. And who knows, once those around you see that you are free to change...to be better...they may just realize they are too.
So as we stand here looking into Lent, preparing to walk with our God for 40 days and 40 nights of reflection, and prayer, and spiritual cleaning...let's remember that we do so as free creations. There is nothing stopping us from just being the person we want to be. God's already done all the hard work...we just need see that we're free.
This all reminds me of an old song from The Newsboys:
But that was yesterday. Today is a new day! So what are you waiting for?!