23 degrees in February. Winter sun in Seville. And visiting one of the city’s 115 churches.
The priest inhabits a solitary compartment. To one side, kneels a man confessing his sin through a latticed screen. No door to hide behind though. His act of penitence witnessed by all around. Unseen by the priest, his confession is heard. His sins no longer hidden. He has come out of the wilderness. The wilderness of unforgiven wrongs.
Commencing today, Ash Wednesday, and as mentioned before, Lent is traditionally a time of focussing on what we’ve got wrong. A time of penitence.
That said, such repentance – the word means to ‘turn around’: to turn from wrong to right – is perhaps a daily occurrence for many of us and one not just limited to 40 days or so in the Spring. Many people live with the mistakes and regrets of the past and their impact on the present and the future. Many people live in a wilderness. Whether spiritually, physically or emotionally, such wilderness times can feel dry and barren.
When we live in the wilderness we can feel that we are wanting, wandering and waiting.
We might think about what we want from God and what is it that God wants, not from, but for us.
Sometimes we can feel a lost in the wilderness. We wander around and don’t know where God is. Times when we want to know God’s presence and how we can trust him in the uncertainties of life.
And in many aspects of the wanting and the wandering, there are times of waiting. Waiting for a way forward or a decision, or waiting for a deeper understanding of what God wants for us.
But, and perhaps paradoxically, it is often in such wilderness times that we experience God in much deeper ways. A God who brings us out of the wilderness. Who restores us and renews us, giving us strength and the ability to see life from God’s perspective.
This is the last full blog post until after Easter (yes, I’m giving up writing for Lent…!) but I’d like to offer you a companion for your own journey out of the wilderness.
This travelling companion comprises a series of short films. An introductory one you may like to watch today and then one for each of the weeks of Lent. There are a couple more for Holy Week and Easter as well.* There’s also a free Companion Booklet you can use to make a note of any reflections or insights you have during this period.
When I was a child I used to love doing a rather strange thing. I would stand on my bed in the very corner of my room, getting up as high as I could and look down over all my toys and books. I’m tempted to say you should try it sometime… but maybe do a risk assessment first! It’s a bit like being in an aeroplane looking down on the countryside.
So often we struggle to see this bigger picture when we are so caught up with the wanting, wandering and waiting. God understands the day-to-day practicalities of our lives more than we will ever be able to fathom. Seeking to see our lives from God’s point of view gives us a whole new perspective. Perhaps that is what God wants for you this Lent.
*There will be a short post on each Sunday in Lent with a link to the film. If you’d like a personal reminder about each film for each week then simply enter your e-mail address in the ‘Subscribe’ box on this page and you’ll receive a notification. It’s free and secure and your details won’t be shared with anyone else.