Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing. -Joel 2:13b
The first time I went home after starting college was both a joy and a challenge. It was late September and I had been away for about six weeks. I arrived at the peak of fall when the leaves were at their brilliant best, nights were cool and refreshing and days were often sunny and bright. To this day the memory of the sights and smell of that first "homecoming" lifts my spirits and fills my heart with joy.
Now the challenge. My parents had been camping out of state and something happened so they wouldn't be home until Sunday. I was going back Monday so I wouldn't have much time with them. Plus, before they left they set it up for a contractor to replace the floor in the kitchen while they were away but he ran into trouble and it wasn't done yet so the house was a construction mess. And part of the problem required the water to be turned off and it wouldn't be back on until he came and finished up early Saturday morning. "Early Saturday morning" are three words no college student ever wants to hear. Welcome home.
It all worked out, though. The contractor wasn't too early and he mostly just had to clean up. By lunch everything was back to normal and the water was on. And mom and dad made it home by dinner on Saturday which was when I told them I was changing my major, going to seminary and becoming a minister. All in all it was a good homecoming.
The season of Lent is a homecoming of sorts - a coming home to faith. Here in this season of Lent we refocus our attention on God and God's will for our lives and seek to renew our discipleship with Jesus. This work can be both joyful and challenging.
The joy comes with our renewed faith, hopefully rediscovering our relationship with God and the power and wisdom of Jesus. The challenge comes with letting go of life's distractions that stand in the way of that relationship.
For the next 40 days (not counting Sundays), may you make time to return to God. Work on that relationship. Listen to the teachings of Jesus. Rediscover that sacred "home" that is our life of faith. Be ready for the challenges and embrace the joy of our loving God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
May your season of Lent be a journey home