Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Amen. Psalm 51:21-23
As you begin this journey of Lent, you must start with rending your heart—tearing it from self-absorption and binding yourself (mind and devotion) to Jesus. Regardless of your current state or your proneness to wander, you must “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13). After all, Lent is not about your faithfulness, but rather about the faithfulness of Jesus on your behalf. He is the faithful One! -Journey to the Cross: Readings & Devotions for Lent
Tearing my heart from self-absorption. This is the rending that needs to take place. It is those who are self-seeking who are promised wrath and fury. Yet His kindness leads to repentance.
And I think about that “prone to wander” phrase and man, I have a little gamboling lamb heart, hither and thither, rather than the calm steady cud-chewing I long for.
So I am very grateful for those chorus-writers; like the piercing version of Keith Green singing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” so that the plea can follow me throughout the day, weaving itself in and out of my thoughts. And I am very grateful for the reminder: Lent is not about your faithfulness, but rather about the faithfulness of Jesus on your behalf. He is the faithful One!
And God has been whispering to me these months about what tearing my heart from self-absorption might look like, and yesterday I gave it away to a little sixth grade boy with waist-long dreads standing in the hallway named Xavier. He declared that we were going to have a great time in science class.
And I toured the classroom yesterday, looking through the empty cupboards and weighing the stacks of ripped up notebooks leaning up against a few empty beaker stands on the back counter. And smiling and waving at Ahmed El Abdalla and Maryan Abdullahi and Bringas Borboa and Aliyah Carrillo as they sit at their scratched black lab tables and do yet another President’s Day Word Search. And my mind hummed with the equally haphazardly stacked up heaps of middle school science lesson plans filed in my little laptop, starting with Mr. Bowen’s first day task of drawing a scientist. I am so good to go.
Sort of. Although there is nothing in me that thinks that this will be easy, as I watched the assistant principal calm down another long-term sub anxiously pacing the hallways, ”I just had to walk out of the class before I smacked someone.”
And every afternoon Nicole who is teaching on the other side of the playground, comes home dog-eared tired, full of breakthrough moments with Saul and Cristiana and Kahlil, but also full of those unhappy moments where deeply wounded children lash out. And she makes the dozens of phone calls home. And visits the bedraggled trailer parks and group homes and tiny little apartments draped in beautiful hand-embroidered fabrics just like a desert tent. And she spins out new plans and clever ploys and colorful posters to tell each child that he is beloved. Because it is not about her, the cupbearer. And late last night she posted this truth that she proclaims every day: It’s not my job to change you, but to love you.
So I feel called by His voice to enter another stage of sabbatical, taking a rest from Me, Myself, and I, and by serving up cups of water to the least of these, I will see His face. And feel His pleasure. And abound in His joy.
And I won’t even pretend to be able to memorize all 150 names. But I am writing up my prayer lists this afternoon with Jenny at Beyond Bread after the Ash Wednesday mass.