As we enter the season of Lent today, I find myself in reflection and preparation – reflecting on how I’ve pushed God away so therefore preparing to experience a closeness to God. This closeness I must admit has not been felt for some time. Perhaps indirectly intentional, I have chosen to keep myself at an arm’s distance from my Creator. In addition to a 9-5 job, I have chosen to take on three side projects (Steeple, Crooked Wits, Shipt). I enjoy all of those things. But all of those things certainly consume time that doesn’t seem to magically multiply. So I miss that closeness. I need that closeness. I know God wants me to want that closeness.
Chris and I visited a church in Oakhurst on Sunday and let me tell you guys, I felt all the feels. I felt that closeness resurface. In addition to my heart and soul being nourished and fed, I also found myself mentally checking off items from my list of church must-haves. By the end of the service, all my check boxes were checked. Strong woman preacher? Yep. Liturgical? Yep. Hymns? Yep. Hymns played acoustically? Yep. Lectionary-based? Yep. Diverse and inclusive? Yep. Coffee provided? Yep. Pro beer and dogs? Yep. Pro adoption? Yep.
Although there are many elements of a church important to me – its staff, congregation, worship style, programs, etc. – one of the heavier weighted items is the preaching. First of all, the church must employ at least one woman pastor. Not an administrative assistant. Not an office manager. An ordained and called female pastor. Second of all, and this is generally speaking, the preacher I listen to needs to be someone who carefully dissects Scripture to wrestle out the truth, even if the truth is hard to hear or ends up falling on deaf ears. The preacher I listen to needs to be able to bring me to my knees in a cry out for Jesus while verbally comforting me that grace abounds. The preacher I listen to needs to be someone who is raw and real and can speak to his or her own misdoings, faults, and obstacles.
The preacher we heard on Sunday at that Oakhurst church was and I hope continues to be all of those things. I can’t tell you the last time I almost cried while listening to a sermon. I can’t tell you the last time I felt embraced by a complete stranger’s words. I can’t tell you the last time I felt so challenged and empowered at the same time.
The closeness is making its way back and I want more of it. I have never given up anything during Lent, yet because I yearn for this closeness, I’m choosing to this year. (Thanks for such a compelling sermon, preacher at the Oakhurst church.) Although I’m giving up something that easily takes my mind off of my 9-5 job and three side gigs, I’m also ridding myself of something that in reality fills my time wastefully with no ounce of Holy Spirit-ness. So until Sunday March 27th, the television will remain OFF (minus basketball games. God is indeed present in the concept of teams – if you’ve played on a team, you know that feeling). Chris is also partaking in this modern-day fast. Besides more date nights, books, and praying, this particular fast will undoubtedly bring us closer to God.
Cheers to this Lenten season, you guys. If you are partaking in fasting or giving something up, may this Lent bring you ever so closer to the One who has desired, desires, and will always desire to be close to you.