Speaker: Melinda Gividen
Lent: What to Expect
For the next seven weeks leading up to Easter, we’re looking back, remembering our sin that led to death.
Each week, you’ll be invited to participate in:
- Reading a devotion from one of our staff members about the work of Jesus.
- A few questions for reflection
If you commit to engaging in this season of Lent with us, it’s our prayer that you’ll approach Easter with confidence and joy, ready to worship our God who is alive.
This resource can be used for your individual growth, but we encourage you to use it in community with others. Walk through the weekly reflections with your small group, or use the reflection section for weekly accountability with a close friend.
Week 5 Devotional
By: Abby Wilder
Years ago, I was invited to speak and lead a workshop for an education conference in the Dominican Republic. From the minute my brother forgot to get me to the airport, everything went poorly.
Flights were cancelled and TSA threw away my visual aids for my workshop. This awkward introvert met her team of 6 extroverted strangers. No AC. I broke our one toilet. People fell asleep in my class. Gunshot erupted during a standoff outside our facility. We lost our translator and the best Spanish I knew was “Mi esposo es caliente“. After a row of setbacks, the team surprised me with a pizza. Fun Fact: Dominican pizza is tomato sauce and wet corn on crust. Several notes are found on the floor of my class, all mocking me. PS: I also got chikungunya. Google it if you dare. The trip was a fiasco.
Enduring a fiasco is a shared experience. Like a flooded basement, it’s either already happened or it WILL happen. Maybe your fiasco was a vacation mishap, or a honeymoon disaster. Some have a great wedding catastrophes or an airport experience they’re not quite ready to talk about. I’ve deduced that 95% of us handle these experiences the same way. We compartmentalize the tragedy, over time, trading our tears and outrage for a sensible perspective. Eventually the frustrations begin to blur, leaving us with a memory we don’t hate, a new family story for the rotation, and hard laughter.
It’s not even a modern phenomenon. Apostle Paul was able to do it in real time during his fiasco. (Such a showoff.) After he was arrested on a fabricated crime, narrowly escaping a plot to murder him, he was thrown on a ship as a prisoner so a higher court could find charges to stick. Except the ship got lost, a typhoon swept in, yada, yada, yada…the survivors live on an island for three months.
Only after being bitten by a poisonous snake and surviving a second murder attempt does he find himself in jail for 2 years. Fiasco, right?
Except that’s not how Paul describes it. In letter after letter he can only gush about how #blessed he was to encounter all the more people with whom he was able to share Jesus. I’m not sure where this resilience comes from. Is it a Christianity thing? As believers, we often practice looking for God’s work in spite of our circumstances. We mature and discover that life is erratic and out of our control. Instead of letting it overwhelm or paralyze us, we seek out God in the difficult relationships, the job hunts, the parenting, or the diagnosis. Sometimes mistaken for misplaced optimism, this behavior weakens the bond the world is trying to create with us, and strengthens our bond to God, a source of comfort and strength.
With enough practice a “no good, very bad year” can reveal itself to be a year where God showed up in new friendships, surprising patience and much needed growth or beauty.
In the coming weeks, as I prepare for Easter, I’m taking this model and applying it to me. Not my circumstances. Not my recent life events. To me. I’m a walking fiasco. My failures, my disaster of an ego, my perception management, my shortcomings, my sin. Like a well planned vacation that turns into a train-wreck, what does my well planned out relationship with God look like when my sin shows up?
Maybe you can relate to those of us who would rather ignore the personal sin and instead focus on fun part: “God is working in our circumstances!” Or, perhaps you’re fully aware of your sin but mistook it as the stopping point; you’ve resigned yourself to that end.
As I look at my shortcomings, I’ll be taking a cue from the Israelites. Like Paul, their situation was rife with failure. They escaped slavery only to become lost in a desert. Waking up each day with the trauma of being a refugee, but also being asked to trust a God with an occasional short temper wasn’t easy. It’s in that exact mess that we see their leader attempt to bring down clarity in the form of commandments, only to break them in exasperation, and have to try again. I recently learned the Jewish community believes both the broken and the whole commandments were placed in the Ark. What a beautiful decision for those exhausted dummies to make. Their brokenness wasn’t where God left them. Their forgetfulness of God’s guidance wasn’t their demise. Their irrational behavior, selfishness, and impatience, and undermining of leadership are where they failed. But it wasn’t the whole story. It was, instead, merely one event in God’s story.
Like the Israelites, I’ll acknowledge where I fall, but instead of burying my mistakes or thinking they’re the sum of who I am, I will immediately set them next to God’s wholeness in me, so the WHOLE story can be intact. A good, perfect, beautiful story of victory over that sin.
Friends, as a recovering know-it-all, there is only one thing I am confident about anymore. And that is that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus. (Phil 1:6)
Or, as Leonard Cohen poetically said it, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
Questions for Reflection:
Read Philippians 4:6-7, James 5:16
- What “cracks” has God been shining thru this year in your life?
- If you haven’t yet, is there a sin or failure that you’re ready to acknowledge is a part of your self, but more truly, the place where God can enter into your life and make new?
- What would look different in your life if you recognized that sin, the brokenness, as an exciting chapter in God’s story of redemption?
- Call someone and tell them your vacation fiasco. Laugh hard.