Monday, April 09, 2012

Passing Over into Freedom

(Note- I'm using Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton as my Lenten devotional this year, and the entries go through the first week of Easter. I'll be blogging the journaling prompts most days.)

Easter is not a day to be compared to the Fourth of July, although in truth it is a celebration of our Christian freedom. Each time we participate in the sacred mysteries, the Pascha Domini (The Passover of the Lord), we die with Christ, rise with him, and receive from him the Spirit of promise who transforms us and unites us to the Father in and through the Son. ~Seasons of Celebration, p. 144.

How is every day of your life an experience of Easter?

I tend to get way more anxious than I should, and so for much of my life I've woken up and immediately been consumed about all the tasks I have to do that day. I viewed these things as an obligation and drew a whole lot of my self-worth from if and how well I accomplished all those tasks.

Guess how often that came out positively at the end of the day? Not very often.

The problem with the attitude that says, "I have to do this. I have to do that" is that it assumes that I have not choice in the matter, that I'm somehow under the control of all these outside forces that care nothing for me and how I feel.

But what are the obligations I have each day? Largely, they are the obligations I have to my wife and children, to my congregation and my denomination, and to other projects or friendships I'm involved in. I have all of those things because I chose to enter into them. I may not have fully understood what it would require to make these relationships work when I first entered into them, but I wasn't naive enough to think that I would never need to do something I wouldn't otherwise do for the greater good.

I could, if I wanted to, walk away from these relationships at any moment because I don't want to do certain things to maintain them. But I choose to do so because I value them and the consequences of throwing those relationships away are so much worse than the annoyance or discomfort I may experience in doing the things I wouldn't otherwise do.

That may sound cynical, but I really do believe that everything we do is a choice, even when it's something we feel like we're obligated to do, or we have to do.

The freedom of Easter is like this. Every day I wake up knowing that I have the opportunity to be a disciple of Jesus. Yes, there was a point in time when I decided that this was going to be a major part of my life, and another point in time where I began to explore the possibility that my vocation would be in a religious institution. But I still make those choices every day.

I choose (most of the time) to deal graciously with people and situations that aggravate me when I might otherwise say a few choice words that I know would be hurtful.

I choose to spend long hours working on church programs and composing sermons, when I know I could phone it in and still produce something decent.

I choose (again, most of the time) not to yell at Kate when she asks for candy and ice cream without having touched her dinner even though she knows darn well she's not going to get it.

Easter shows us that God is willing to give us the ultimate gift: himself, even when we had done nothing to deserve it and didn't necessarily ask for it. God asks for us to do the same: give ourselves in return, but will not withdraw the gift if we don't respond in kind. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more, and nothing we can do to make God love us any less. So every day we have is a day of freedom, a day full of choices as to how to respond to the gift of Easter.

At the end of the day, let's all try to look back over how we responded. What did we do well? How did we mess up? Let us choose to learn from the choices we made this day, and let it inform how we freely choose to respond to grace the next day.

That's what God really wants. God wants us to choose to give ourselves, and we can't genuinely make that choice without freedom.

So how will you use your God-given freedom today?

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