The Path of Lent
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. … Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in me. … Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will turn back to You.
In What Are We Doing Here? Marilynne Robinson describes the large segment of our nation who know nothing about religion at all, except what they hear from its very loudest voices, and who are therefore, understandably, secularists (p.54). The loudest voices are rarely the most thoughtful voices. Midway through my sabbatical, and thinking about Robinson’s comment on this first day of Lent, I am pondering Psalm 51. The season of Lent is a time to contemplate the mercy of God and our personal need of it. But what David demonstrates in this psalm of repentance is that honesty before the Lord is not only what I need but it is also the path to helping others know His grace. He envisions teaching “sinners” the ways of God’s mercy and unfailing love and seeing them turn to the Lord but cannot unless he first repents and experiences God’s grace and creative power in his own life. In The Heart of Evangelism, Jerram Barrs sums up the beginning of outreach to others: Humble prayer will be our starting point (p.131). If we want others to experience the grace of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, this must be our starting point, too. Self-critique in the presence of God is the first step towards renewal by God so that through our voices, others might hear Him speaking.