As I’m writing this, a miserable Mississippi winter is soaking the world outside the office windows—providing an appropriate atmosphere for the Lenten season. Iron & Wine’s melancholy tones are crooning in my headphones and a steaming cup of Earl Grey is close by my keyboard. I’m definitely not a fan of winter. After Christmas, what’s the point of cold weather?
At the same time, a miserable spiritual winter is soaking me inside. I don’t mean to say that I’m backslidden. What I mean is I’m definitely not where I want to be spiritually. There’s a lot of apathy and laziness in my life when it comes to the pursuit of God. I’m not 100% aware of how needy I am of His nearness 100% of the time. It is way too easy for me to mentally check out and to coast along during the week on whatever I’ve heard on Sunday morning without actively digging into God for myself. I’ve written a few times for Engage about not being a spoon-fed Christian, but those articles are every bit as much for me as they are for everyone I hope reads them.
There is a lot of emphasis in younger Christian circles on sanctification, growing in Christ, and being made to be like Him. And this is good. There should be active encouragement, one Christian to another, to continue in the Christian walk and not to falter by the wayside. But just as I’ve reflected on in my own life, there are few if any able say their growth is coming along perfectly. And it is at this time we need to remember that growing in Christ is the journey, not the destination.
Sanctification is the journey. While it is important, it is not the goal. I am greatly comforted by this truth. If Christ made His sacrifice only so that I could get sanctified, then I would be in trouble. I do see evidence of growth in my life, but it is smaller than I would like. Sort of the way winter is crawling by. I feel as if I’m being sanctified at a crawling pace, and not by leaps and bounds, the way I want.
While thinking about all that this morning, I was reminded of a Scripture my pastor often closes Sunday services with. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
This is where I have to put my faith. Who is able to keep me from stumbling? It isn’t me. It is Christ. Who will present me blameless before God? Not me. Christ. Who will do all this with a joy that overflows, having achieved the end of all His work? Not me, although I will be joyful. My joy will be far outmatched by Christ’s.
And that is ultimately what Lent is all about. Whether you formally observe Lent or not, I encourage you to take some time to meditate on the promise of eternal grace in the midst of sin. Use this dreary time of year when winter seems to go on and on to consider the standing of your heart before God. As winter turns to spring, give thanks for the proof in your life that God will in His time bring you into the fullness of His grace. Like a seed hidden dormant in the frozen soil of winter, it will germinate in the warmth of the sun, spread out roots deep into our hearts, and reach upwards into a young spring sky. It is as sure as the dawn in the morning.
This is the springtime to my wintery journey of sanctification: the glory that Christ will have when my soul stands before the Father wrapped up in the imputed perfection of Jesus.
I am so ready for spring. I am ready to get outside and do what little yard work I can at my apartment. I’m ready to see eternity spread out as far as the eye can see under the reign of the Prince of Peace. I am ready to buy my first grill, plant tomato and basil (for the best tomato sandwiches ever), and celebrate nature waking up from its long nap. I am ready to begin the greatest treasure hunt, searching out the infinitely unsearchable riches of Christ with no end in sight. I am ready to sit on the porch with my wife listening to old Glen Miller records and sipping sweet tea and lemonade from Mason jars. I am ready to look into the eyes of my Savior, unembarrassed and unashamed of the sin that is thrashing and drowning in a sea of forgetfulness.
Winter doesn’t last forever. This big blue globe of rocks and water will tip over and my hemisphere will get soaked in golden rays from the sun and the grass will be green again. This gospel seed planted in my heart will spread its roots deep in my soul, invading every corner and extremity until not one inch of ground remains unconquered by Christ. He is able to keep me from stumbling and He will present me perfect in glory.