Ruth Haley Barton: More finely attuned

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Yet even now, says the Lord, repent and return to me with all your heart. Joel 2:12.

“The real question of the Lenten season is: How will I repent and return to God with all my heart? This begs an even deeper question: Where in my life have I gotten away from God and what are the disciplines that will enable me to find my way back?

How many and how subtle are the ways we “leave” God and the true spiritual journey in favor of other pursuits—even those that seem very noble and even necessary. The cares and concerns of life in this world and even the dreams and visions that God has given us can become distractions from the relationship itself…Returning to God with all our hearts begins with repentance…

Lenten disciplines help us to abstain from the daily distractions that prevent us from seeing and naming reality correctly. As we allow some of the external trappings of our lives to be stripped away, we can return to a truer sense of ourselves and a deeper pursuit of God. We acknowledge the subtle temptations to which we are prone rather than pretending that we are beyond temptation.

The disciplines of fasting and other kinds of abstinence help us to abstain from that which distracts us and numbs our awareness so that we can become more finely attuned to what is going on in our lives spiritually-speaking. We allow ourselves to experience the necessary grief that leads to repentance and we ask God to lead us in a new and everlasting way.”

Ruth Haley Barton in “Practicing Lent: Invitation to Return to God” blog post dated 21 February 2012.

Hopefully what is happening to each of us this Lent is that we are experiencing “necessary grief that leads to repentance” while becoming “more finely attuned” both to God and the things that distract us from God, whether they be good things or bad things.

The prophet Joel instructs us how to do this: Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:13Is it time for a heart-rending and returning exercise?

Let’s take some time today to make a list of things that distract us from God. Father, forgive us, we are brokenhearted for pursuing these other things and missing you in the process. Recalculate our route back to you, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do this we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.