“Why do you hate me?” I can’t ever seem to get over the shock of someone assuming that, because I disagree with him, I must then, therefore, hate him.
“Hey buddy, all I said was the stove was hot. If you touch it, you’ll get burned.” “See, you do hate me. You just want to deprive me of my freedom. If I want to touch the stove, I should be free to touch the stove! You’re just trying to control me! I can do whatever I want to do!”
Oh well, OK, I guess you are free to do whatever you want. But none of us are free from the consequences of our choices.
“Hey, that stove is hot! I just burned my hand! That’s not fair, and you better do something to make me feel better or that will prove you really do hate me!”
This is a pretty ridiculous conversation, isn’t it? And yet, how far off the mark is the underlying thought process of so many of us in our quest to achieve freedom from consequences? Over and over again, I have been “burned” by my shortsighted thinking in choosing some immediate gratification with little or no thought of the consequences of my choices. And then, in my immediate, emotional response to these consequences, I look up in the sky and ask God why He hates me to put me through all these troubles.
And a Voice comes from heaven and say “I told you the stove was hot!”
In our Scripture Lesson today, we get to read about just such a situation. In Isaiah 65:8-16 The Lord confronts people whose choices are exactly opposite to their own best interests and now they are being told the consequences of these shortsighted choices, and it ain’t pretty.
The Lord recites the consequences to these people and then He tells them why all this is happening to them when He says “because, when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes, and chose what I did not delight in.” Isaiah 65:12
That’s the bad news. Fortunately, there is also Good News, and the Good News is it’s never too late to turn from those self centered choices to chose what God delights in (and, by the way, the reason God delights in certain choices is because it leads not to His happiness but yours!).
We approach the raising of Lazarus this Saturday as Great Lent comes to an end again this year. And the message of the raising of Lazarus is it is never too late to undo the mistakes of the past. Our great enemies, Death and Mortality, are simply no match for God’s grace and His redeeming Power.
So, today, regardless of the mistakes of your past, the path to that Resurrected Life lavished on humanity by God’s Victory over Death and Mortality, lie in the dual revelations of Honest Repentance and Joyous Embrace. Honest Repentance has little to do with mere regret and everything to do with a transformed way of thinking about your life. This repentance moves you from a self centered lifestyle and the childing slavery to some notion of your own autonomy, and more towards the wise path of choices meant to make you truly free, not to do anything you want (that usually leads to addiction) but to the freedom and strength to choose wisely. And the Joyous Embrace of the path of taming your passions through the wise stewardship of your gifts and abilities through the spiritual labors of the faith created specifically to be your spiritual “exercise routine” to make your soul strong enough to master your body!
This is the whole purpose of the wisdom of our Orthodox theology and practice. And this is why this season of the year is central to our labors, our true repentance, and our focus. As you embark on the Holy Days of Holy Week, don’t miss one opportunity to embark on the transforming journey of true freedom found in Honest Repentance and Joyous Embrace! Be the free person you were created to be and don’t forget “that stove is hot!”