Lenten Wisdom from the Desert - Meditation 2
Last week we began by hearing about who the Desert Fathers and Mothers were.
Men and women who, in the very early centuries of the church, sought lives of solitude, stillness, and prayer by going into the desert to live alone, or in very small communities of prayer.
These holy people went out to the desert to find what they called stillness (hesychasm); not just being still in body, but a state in which you have inner silence and live in constant and unceasing prayer.
Many of the stories we have of them tell of their living in solitude within caves or abandoned forts for decades at a time, living only on what was thrown into the cave or over the stone wall.
There it is said they did battle with demons, fought their worldly desires, and communed with God.
Their focus was living lives of unshakeable prayer and dedication to God, and so they did not leave a written record of their deeds, but others collected their stories and sayings, and we have these today.
Today’s story is brief and is about the exchange between Abba (Father) Mius, the hermit, and a Soldier.
A soldier asked Abba Mius if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught him many things he said, 'Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?' The soldier replied, 'No , I mend it and use it again.' The old man said to him, 'If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about his creature?'
Abba Mius’ words to the soldier today are simple, as many of the sayings of the Fathers are.
What he is expressing to the Soldier is also a very simple idea, but often very difficult for us to know in our hearts. Our heads hear it and we nod, acknowledging its truth, but how much harder it is to allow a true knowledge of God’s care and forgiveness for us to shape our daily lives. How much harder it is for it to move from head to heart.
There are many who have given up on God because they feel God wasn’t there for them when they needed Him most.
There are many of us who, in the moment of trial, don’t turn first to God and His infinite mercy, but instead to the world.
There are those of us who live with burdens of sin, things we feel guilt for, maybe even secretly. Some of those people feel with certainty that they are bearing an unforgiveable sin; that they are bearing the burden that Christ cannot come and help bear; because of which God can no longer love us.
The image Abba Mius uses is so fitting because he is trying to teach the Soldier that repentance, an often scary word, is not about beating your breast and weeping for forgiveness from God, but rather, is an act of mending.
Repentance is not a single act that we do whenever we feel guilty from doing something bad, so that we can feel good until the next time we wrong someone else or ourselves.
Repentance is living a life in which we constantly strive to mend the brokenness that each of us bears.
Repentance is the act of healing wounds spiritual and emotional. Of reconciliation. Of making peace. Of apology and humility. Repentance is not apologizing to God for the ways you fail Him and others; it is seeking healing from the things that cause us to fail others in the first place.
The assurance we have, as Abba Mius tells the soldier, is that through it all. Even through our struggles just to begin to repent, God’s love and care is there for us.
We are not worthless in His eyes because of our tears and our brokenness.
God seeks us. God wants us. And God is trying to make us whole.