“If you want a guarantee, buy a dishwasher!” These are the plain spoken words of a wise man to me early on in my spiritual journey that eventually led me to the Orthodox Church.
He was responding to my questions about assurance of salvation and my mindset that still saw my relationship with God and my Christian life as more of a contractual business relationship rather than the messy relationships based on love! I had to be confronted with my own delusion that somehow my life in Christ was suppose to make my life “easy” or “smooth sailing” all the way to the pearly gates. Needless to say that mindset betrayed my selfish desire to be pampered by God rather than transformed.
Listen to the words of our Lord in today’s Gospel Lesson: “The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (read the whole lesson from Matthew 10:16-22).
That doesn’t sound like a life of ease and pampering at all. Sheep among wolves! Hey, I’ve seen the National Geographic specials about predators and prey! It never turns out good for the sheep!.
As we embark on the Dormition Fast, we need to take a lesson in peace and contentment in the midst of the chaos of real life from the Theotokos. She was God’s chosen vessel to enter His creation and she loved her Son and Lord. She saw all He endured. She suffered when He suffered just as any mother suffers when they see their child suffer. And yet, she never lost hope. Her circumstances never overcame her confidence that if God could cause a Virgin to conceive then all of these temporary sufferings would be made right in the light of eternity. She trusted because she was intimately acquainted with God’s love and power.
Let’s face it, we are going to face hard times in life. There is no sense in worrying about something that’s guaranteed to happen. It’s a waste of time and energy. So, knowing hard times come to us all, it’s now time to decide that, when those times come, we will allow our faith to inform our actions and attitudes in the middle of these hard times. We won’t be fair weather believers and abandon our confidence in God just because we’ve hit a difficult place.
Today, use the wisdom of the Faith to give you strength through all your life. Learn the wisdom of the fasting times of the Church Year to teach even your body to focus on the sufficiency of Christ in your life. What you really need is a vibrant connection with God, dear ones. The fasting disciplines of the Church teach us this, so that when there are times of deprivation in our physical lives, times of heartache, times of loss, and disappointment, we know how to respond. We pray, we fast, we give.
In this liberty of focus on Christ, we are set free to face all that life brings us. If we accept the challenge of allowing the rhythm of the Church to take precedence over the whims and whimsy of a life that can feel out of control, we will be free to weather any storm of life.
Are you facing a tough time right now? Are you scared or worried? Today, embrace the overriding wisdom of the eternal over the temporary and watch as the strength and peace of God fills you with the ability to press on. Today, we fast in memory of the Theotokos, and for our very souls. God bless you.