Friday, February 20, 2015

His mercies are all I need

Do you ever engage in "self-talk"?  You know what I mean - those moments when you just have to look yourself in the mirror and give yourself a stern talking to in order to bring correction to your attitude, behavior, or direction you are taking in life.  I think we all must do this from time to time, but we may be shy about admitting we actually talk to ourselves!  Especially if we could be labeled as a little "touched in the head" for that type of activity! Nonetheless, the things we tell ourselves in those moments of self-talk can be very "corrective" to our behavior.  I think God often lets us talk things out so we can become aware of the answer he wants to bring forth from us.  In a matter of minutes, we find ourselves coming to conclusions which bring clarity, give us hope, and move us in a new direction.  Why?  God helped us remember we might be "finished" with something which frustrates us or gives us too much worry, but he isn't!  He has something special planned if we will just accept the mercies he has prepared for us in those moments.

I tell myself, “I am finished! I can’t count on the Lord to do anything for me.” Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed. Then I remember something that fills me with hope. The Lord’s kindness never fails! If he had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed. The Lord can always be trusted to show mercy each morning. Deep in my heart I say, “The Lord is all I need; I can depend on him!” (Lamentations 3:18-24 CEV)

As I was listening to a newer song which came on the radio yesterday, I was reminded of this passage.  The theme of the song was the fresh start God gives us no matter how many times we have to make that same start!  As I listened to an interview with the artist who performs the song, I was touched by something he said.  He recounted how he used to think he had to count the days he remained "sin-free".  You know what he means don't you - the belief that we aren't really growing or changing in the right direction unless we actually make it a full day without engaging in that particular sin we are seeking to overcome.  His revelation was a blessing to me, though, as he recounted that God doesn't ask us to count the days, but to know we always have a fresh start even when we slip up.  God's mercies are truly new each and every morning - or as many times in the day as we need to ask for them!  This is indeed the good news of God's grace!

His mercies never fail - his kindness never dries up or withers away.  His grace is there time and time again - even when we think there could not possibly be anymore of it left for our particular shortcoming!  We find ourselves at the point the prophet Jeremiah pens the words above the nation of Israel has realized the destruction of Jerusalem.  The five chapters contain a kind of "funeral dirge" lamenting the destruction of the great city by the Babylonian armies in the face of Israel's repeated sins against their God.  The chapters give us an insight into something we often do when we realize our rebellion and sinful actions have taken us into a place of great despair.  At first, we complain - not really willing ourselves to take responsibility for our actions, but "lamenting" or "complaining" about the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Then as we continue with our lament, we find ourselves converting at some point to the place of recognition - the place where we recognize we have a part to play in the place we find ourselves standing and circumstances with which we are faced.

Herein is the moment of transition - for the lamenting leads to the place of repentance.  At first, we think the walls are caving in around us (just as Israel lamented the walls of Jerusalem being torn down).  Then as we talk a little longer, we realize our despair over "our" loss is really based in some way we might have been acting or responding which was less than desirable (just as Israel did when they realized they had turned to the traditions of the nations around them, intermarried, and done exactly what God had told them not to do as they entered into the land of Canaan).  In those moments between our whining and complaining about where we are - those moments we might call our "funeral dirge" - and the light bulb coming on at that moment of recognition, we can take heart in one thing - God doesn't stop listening just because we start lamenting!

He brings us through our lament into the place where we find we are ready to repent!  As we recognize our involvement in the present mess we are in, we come to the place of asking for God's forgiveness - reaching out for the one thing we know we can count on again and again - his mercies!  Many of us have to do this more than once before we will ever overcome the pull toward what gives us so much grief in our lives - so don't be discouraged when you find yourself having that "talk" with yourself a few more times than you'd like to.  If we are honest, the "talk" changes a little each time - even though it may only be a subtle difference between this time and the last!  The point is - when we allow God to take our lamenting and turn it into a place where we admit our need for his mercy, we come to a new place in our lives each and every time. His mercies make all things new - each and every time!

At the moment of confession we find his mercy.  At the point of mercy, we find a way "out" of what got us deep into the lamenting in the first place.  We might not get it right the next time or even the next twenty times we try, but each time we come to him his mercies are consistent and their "process" is the same. The "process" I am referring to is that of renewal.  His mercies make all things new - it is as though we never slipped in the first place!  WE don't understand this - so we have this thing called shame attached to our repeated failures. God does understand his mercy and he has this thing called forgiveness which he attaches to each failure.  The thing is - when God attaches forgiveness to the failure, it is like the failure is gone.  All he sees is his Son in us - nothing else! This is what mercy does - it exchanges the lament we bring with the glory he provides.  Just sayin!