Valentine’s Day …the day after Ash Wednesday this year…the day after the beginning of Lent? How can that be fair? For some the Lenten Season doesn’t mean anything particularly special. Honestly, until I was well into adulthood I did not really know that Ash Wednesday was the beginning of a New Season. The first understanding I had of Lent was when Episcopal friends would fast or give up something that was a luxury or an “addiction” or a bad habit that was physically pleasurable I believed that it was a period of self-denial …a time to give up a vice… chocolate, sweets, caffeine, alcohol, etc. but I didn’t understand that it was much more significant than just denying. It could be a time also to take something on…to add something that is missing – a quiet time. A Book Study. A Friendship. Now I understand that Lent is meant to be a time of reflection …a time of renewal. Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days. Forty is an important number in the Bible, by the way : Moses spent forty days with God on Mount Sinai; Elijah spent forty days and nights walking to Mount Horeb; Noah and his family were on the ark for forty days and nights; the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years looking for the promised land; Jonah warned and prophesied to the city of Nineveh that it would be destroyed if it did not turn from its wicked ways… and forty days is how long Jesus spent fasting in the desert before he began his ministry.
“The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.”
I am taking this Lent seriously. So much has been happening to me recently. On the outside I still look the same, I am still doing the same things and I may not look like I have not gone anywhere…but I feel like I have taken a giant leap in the right direction.
I have said before that I believe in signs, and I believe that God gives us signs to be reassured and feel confident that He is with us and that we are walking on the right path. I have been getting signs that I need to know and share a specific message. First I must share the two Bible verses that are always with me and that sustain me:
Oddly, when I looked the verse up today it did not have the wording that I am accustomed to! In fact this is the first time I have seen this verse written just so…”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6… I have a literal sign hanging in my home that I received from a friend when I was in highschool with the same verse only one word is different…”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways ACKNOWLEDGE Him and He will make your paths straight.” Submit verses Acknowledge….hhhmmmm. That is something to reflect on for a minute. For me they are different.
My other verse is Jeremiah 29:11 ” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” I know this is true. God has plans and his ways I don’t understand but I have to trust.
In the past couple of days from several sources I keep hearing the same message: We need each other.
I have started reading a Lenten Series book by Dave Early called 14 Secrets to Better Relationships. The first sentence of chapter one says, “Life is mostly about relationships. When our relationships are going well, life is good. We feel full, strong, loved and happy. But when our relationships unravel – or worse, don’t exist – life is empty and lonely. We feel insignificant, insecure, weak, and sad. We all have a relentless yearning to attach and connect, to love and be loved. This relationship hunger is the fiercest longing of the human soul.”
The food for this hunger is fellowship…fellowship means “sharing together.”
“Fellowship involves participating in relationships to the point where you get to know others and feel their hurts, share their joys, work together, and give a lift to one another. Chuck Swindoll writes that when fellowship occurs, ‘Fences must come down. Masks need to come off. Welcome signs need to be hung outside the door. Keys to the locks in our lives must be duplicated and distributed…and we must share our joys and our sorrows’.” Wow.
Now this is where it gets crazy! I read this in my Lenten Study book yesterday afternoon: Genesis 2:18 states, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Man is not supposed to be isolated. To thrive, humans need to be in a community.
Ok, people…so I am reading this book, and reading a book is not an activity that I usually do these days! And then last night my husband and I go to a small group church meeting. It was the first time that we had gone, and the man who opens the door is one of a handful of people who my husband has met in our new town…our new community.
The small group was made up of couples of various ages and backgrounds and ethnicities. Several couples had been divorced and remarried. One couple was not yet married. The group is watching a video series by Andrew Wommack called “God’s Kind of Marriage”…and what do you think the Bible verse the video focused on? Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a help mete for him. …(King James Version is what Andrew Wommack quoted from…but other versions say, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’
We all know that this is about Adam and Eve… that God made Adam a help-mate. Sure, procreation and continuation was part of the plan…but Andrew Wommack goes on to exhort that God did not make a person for Adam to act as a replacement for God. Adam was sufficient in himself and with God … God knows about relationships. He has always existed in a perfect relationship with the Holy Spirit and the Son. God did not make Eve for Adam so that Adam would be complete physically or emotionally. A partner cannot fulfill anything that is insufficient within a person. God’s desire is for humans to be sufficient in their relationship with God.
So if God did not make men and women to make the other complete, or fill a void or meet expectations then why did God make woman for man? For the power of the unity of Agreement. A help -mete…and assistant. I think that is an amazing idea. Human love is supposed to be a by-product of, not a substitute for God’s love. Men and women…and I like to think this applies to all relationships (with the exception of parent and child or a person who is truly in NEED to live because of an illness or disability). We are sufficient with God but we are made by God to be help mates. Not to have unrealistic expectations of what the other person should do for us…but with the sincere question of “what can I do for you? how can I help?” not to be a stumbling block… not to believe that someone else can make me whole or happy or content. Bitterness or sadness for things that feel missing is completely understandable…but what is missing and is there something else that can fill that void? God. And relationships with people who are life-giving and thought-provocing…relationships that encourage and that feed our soul and mind with good thoughts…that strengthen us and make us more…a relationship that keeps us balanced and able to grow.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8…think about and seek and share with others…
We know the book of Ecclesiastes for verse 3: 1 “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” but I want to leave you with the verses from Ecclesiastes 4 : 9-12 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Thank you. You matter. You are needed. Not to complete me, but to make me stronger…and I will,God willing, will be a help mate, an assistant to make you stronger. Peace and Love on this Valentine’s Day.