SCRIPTURE: Psalm 107:4 (TM)
Some of you wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live
Gordon MacDonald: "Repentance is not basically a religious word. It comes from a culture where people were essentially nomadic and lived in a world with no maps or street signs. It’s easy to get lost walking through the desert. You become aware that the countryside is strange. You finally say to yourself, I’m going in the wrong direction. That’s the first act of repentance. The second act of repentance is to go in an alternate direction. It implies that you not only do this but you admit it to your companions."
Desert, a dry place with little life to be found. Desert, the horizon looks the same regardless of which direction you look. It is a place in which we lose our bearings. We are easily confused. Our minds begin to play tricks. It is possible to wander round in circles for days and never know it. Not a good place to live.
And such is our life. Oh, we might live in a nice house. There could be a refrigerator filled with food. In the evenings we climb into a comfortable bed. Entertainment is only a remote click away. A vehicle sits ready to take us anywhere we wish to travel. Desert? Not us. Just look around and discover all the great and tremendous things that make living so comfortable and easy. But live? Now there’s the rub.
Our life could be as parched as existing in a desert and might not even know it. We might have life, but living escapes us. We could have it all, but have nothing. We might be just wandering through this life, putting in our time, spending our days as they come to us – one after another – without ever getting to the point of actually coming alive.
Key to our Lenten journey is repentance – discovering that there is more to life than what we are experiencing. It is coming to terms with the reality that we are heading in the wrong direction. It is admitting that we need to turn around. But here is the challenge shared by Gordon MacDonald – it is sharing with others that we have been wandering in the desert of life needing to turn around in go in a different direction.
Could Mr. MacDonald have hit on something profound? We speak of repentance often in our religious circles. It is preached about, taught in various studies, discussed in our small groups … but experienced? Nothing really changes until we share it with others. Think of it like a spiritual Weight Watchers where we stand on the scale in the presence of someone else … having to admit if we have been faithful to our commitment to lose weight by eating correctly.
Repentance is a two-step process. First-step is admitting to ourselves that we are wandering in the desert of life. Second-step is sharing our discovery with someone else with the commitment to head in a different direction. Easy? Not on your life. Step one is easy, but step two … not so much. It really depends on how much we wish to get out of the hot dry places in our life and begin to really live.
Boy, God, we are lost. Our souls feel like they have shriveled up inside. It seems that we are nothing but an outward shell – empty, unfulfilled. HELP!