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Lenten Devotional - day 23

It’s been a couple of days. I guess a daily practice is harder on me than I was ready for. That’s okay, sometimes Lent gets to teach me about grace. This is teaching me my need for grace, and any time I get to learn that, I get to be humbled. Anytime I get to be humbled, I learn something more about the love of God that never leaves me.

I realized today that Holy Week is coming up quickly. We are over halfway through our Lenten journeys to the cross and to Easter. As I’ve called Lent the springtime of our souls, and as it is now spring, I want to share with you the lesson of the tree.

Each year many trees give up their leaves. They let them drop. They know, however they know, that the leaves no longer give them life. The leaves die, and the trees let them go. Then when spring comes new leaves come.

In order for us to experience the springtime of our souls that Lent invites us to know, we must learn from the tree. We must learn to let go of the parts of us that are no longer giving us life. If we hold onto the dead leaves we will not know the new life that is always offered to us when we follow Jesus.

If a tree was not willing let go of the dead leaves which once fed it, it would not be able to have the new life that springtime promises, and it would die. There are so many who hold onto things that don’t give them life. Some hold onto addictions, some hold onto ideas and ideologies that bring no justice, some hold onto beliefs (even about God) that give no life, and then walk around like zombies, animate but dead.

There is a sermon Jesus preached in Luke’s gospel that literally no one likes. In 14:26 Jesus preached something like, “If anyone comes to me and doesn’t hate his father and mother, brother and sister, spouse and children, even his own life, he can’t be my disciple.” I don’t like this short little sermon, but I get it. There are expectations from those I love, that if I hold onto, I cannot follow Jesus.

I was a teenager when my parents sat me down and told me that whatever I do in life, I shouldn’t become a pastor. I suppose they saw what God was doing with me. Other people were beginning to see it too. I didn’t see it at all. I know why they told me this. They told me out of love.

I have had people tell me I’ve destroyed their faith. I have had people curse me to hell. I have had people simply leave my churches because, “I need to be fed in a different way.” I’ve had people tell me that they don’t want to hear the difficult words of Christ, or that they can only worship in certain ways, or even one anonymous soul who wrote in the local paper, “The Rev. Garrett J. Andrew said the most dangerous thing I’ve ever heard any pastor say. He undermines the foundations of Christianity and called into question everything in the Bible.”

Each time I have experienced such things, it hurts. I think my parents saw that God chose me, and they didn’t want me to have to go through a life where people would hate me because I wanted (was chosen to tell) them to give up the parts of them that are killing them. They were trying to protect me. But, when Jesus chooses someone, he doesn’t really let them go… well he’s never let me go. And one day I had to call them up and tell them I was going to seminary. I had to hate their ideas for me, so I could follow the One who won’t leave me alone. I had to let the dead leaves go.

But I have more and more dead leaves. Things that feel like life, and might even be life, but only for a season; and I have to let them go. If I don’t, I won’t experience the springtime that Christ promises, and is the reason for Lent at all. Be a tree, let the dead leaves go. The new leaves will feed the fruit that will be a sweet blessing to the world, even if the world doesn’t know it needs it.

Until tomorrow,