For someone who likes words and lots of them, editing a book can be hard work. After pouring over each sentence and getting to the point where you love them all, no author wants to hear that she has to cut hundreds of words. But that is exactly what a writer is told and tends to be reluctant to do. When I was in the midst of that very process, I received great advice from an editor. Surprisingly, it applies to Holy Week. She said, “You have to kill your precious.” To the writer, every word seems golden. But unless you “kill your precious” and get rid of the parts that are unnecessary, the finished work won't be as concise or impactful.
Holy Week offers us opportunities to kill lots of precious. It's the home stretch, the last incline of the journey of Lent. It might be tempting to just switch gears and start focusing on Easter Sunday, but if we skip over these key days in the Church calendar, we'll miss out. The spirit of sacrifice is hard for us pleasure-seeking people, but a few more days of focused effort can make the celebration of the resurrection that much sweeter.
We all have those sins that we like to justify. The ones that we hide and don't think matter much. I struggle in this way too. It makes me think of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and the way he called the ring that he coveted “his precious.” This was something he had possessed that wasn't actually good for him, but he longed for it nevertheless.
What is it that you reach for when you are longing for security or comfort or an escape? Maybe it's attention from someone who doesn't belong to you. Perhaps it's too much wine. Maybe it's shopping and spending money you don't have. It can be porn, or Netflix, or eating food to try to fill a void in the heart...anything that distracts or diverts. Maybe it's your ego that needs to die a death. Instead of a hearty dose of accomplishments and accolades, you are actually needing to grow in humility. Even as I write this, it all sounds quite horrible to me. I suppose it does to us all, which is exactly why we reach for these things. They feel so good in the short-term.
God is asking us to “kill our precious,” not because he is out to spoil our fun, but because He knows that's the very thing that is holding us back from the life that is truly life. He is asking us to have a long-term perspective. He wants my eye not just on the reward of Easter Sunday but on the ultimate reward of being in His presence in heaven. Which do I want more, short-term gain or long-term glory?
What I have found very helpful is to kneel before the altar with that “precious sin” on my mind. I picture holding it in my hands. And this is what I pray: “This is the sin I am wanting to play around with. This is what looks so good to me in the short-term. But I want to be a saint more. And I want to be free.” Romans 6:16 tells us, “You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
I wish that our desire to grow closer to God meant that the enemy of our souls would just give up and leave us alone. But nothing scares him more than people who know their true identity as beloved children of God, and he is terrified of the ones who take their faith seriously. The more committed to God we get, the more the enemy will tempt us to settle for mediocrity. Let's resist him with all we've got- especially during this Holy Week.
Our lives are too short and our calling too great to play around with sin. We're in the home stretch, the final incline in the marathon of Lent. Let's finish well. Let's fling aside those sins that entangle and cling so closely. Let's ask God to kill our precious, and do all we can to stay on the path of holiness.
“Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen, warm the chill”
(The novena to the Holy Spirit)
Happy Easter, my friends!
Springtime is here, and hope is springing up all around us. It may be hard to see- it may be hidden- but it is always there. Today is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and we don't only focus on the incredible fact that our sins are forgiven. The resurrection is all about the incredible life we can live here on earth and throughout eternity in heaven.
It's recently occurred to me that I have spent the better part of my adult life focused on heaven (that's a good thing), but having given up hope on a number of things changing in my life here and now (that's not so great). A subtle lie had crept into my life that went something like this: “If it's hard, it must be God's will.” Or “If it's good for other people in my life, it must be God's will.” And then the one that always got me to buckle down and keep on trucking, “If it's good for God's kingdom, God wants you to keep going no matter how much it's slaying you.”
I was behaving like God's workhorse instead of His beloved. I had lost sight of the fact that He wanted me to live fully alive. That I was a part of His kingdom, and He didn't want me numb inside, ignoring how I felt in order to simple deliver and perform. I'd prayed the Our Father and really meant it when I said, “Your will be done” but somehow missed the part where we say “ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” He doesn't want us to just grit our teeth and wait for eternity. He wants to melt the frozen parts of our hearts, resurrect dead dreams, and redeem our past TODAY.
God has led me on a journey of healing that has led me to look at things completely differently. I went on a retreat during Lent this year called Healing the Whole Person(1), and all sorts of explosions of truth went off in my heart; the experience has profoundly changed me. Painful memories and areas of hopelessness came to the surface, and I experienced resurrection and healing in ways I didn't think possible.
This Easter, as I picture Jesus shedding those burial clothes and bursting up from the grave, I am thanking Him for peeling off layers of self-protection that were covering what was dead inside me. Peeling those grave clothes away has given Him access to my heart, and He has brought it back to life and filled me with joy. The amazing truth is that the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you and me (Rom. 8:11). That means that the power that raised Jesus is available to us, right now. The Holy Spirit comes into us with that power and He is a total game-changer.
We need the Holy Spirit to bend our stubborn hearts and will, to melt the frozen and warm the chill. Sometimes what is most stubborn within us is our refusal to see our need for a thaw in our hearts. We say we're fine, we grab a glass of wine, we turn on Netflix, and zone out. That's our reward for getting through the day, and we know that it's all just going to start again tomorrow. The proving, perfecting, and endless performance. Underneath it all is an intense desire to be self-sufficient. To be our own saviors. We may not say that, but all too often, it's how we behave.
What we fail to see is that all the things we think are keeping us in control, all the things that we think make us worthy, are actually keeping us in bondage. They are keeping us tethered to the treadmill of performance, and we are exhausted.
This Easter, Jesus is offering you a different way to live. Listen to Him whisper…
Come to me. Come needy. Come broken. Come weak. Lay it all down. You can rest. It isn't all up to you. It never has been. It has always been all up to me, and I took care of all that was needed on the cross. You have nothing to prove. I am grabbing hold of you and bringing you into a resurrected life. Don't be afraid of your hopes and dreams. Bring them to me. Stand back and watch as I bring into your life far more than you could ask or imagine. Don't be afraid of your past. I will heal those wounds and redeem the years that have been eaten up by the locusts of pain and regret. Bring your relationships to me- those hurts and unmet expectations. Let me meet your relational needs so that you can stop manipulating and controlling. I am FOR YOU.
This is what Easter Sunday is all about. The resurrected life is for today and for eternity.
(1) If you want more info on this incredible retreat, go to the website: https://jpiihealingcenter.org