This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it…”
So it’s Ash Wednesday, and that means the time has come for Lent. The liturgical calendar has helped me find a rhythm for walking with God these past few years. He is good to give minds to create tools and symbols so that we can better understand who He is and what He is like. We cross our foreheads with ash to remember Jesus and his sacrificial life. We cross our foreheads as a symbol of our repentance.
I am in Bellingham, WA for a few days, and the groundhog didn’t have a shadow or something this year. It is mid-February, but spring appears to have arrived. I went for a run today and pondered the Isaiah verse as my Ash Wednesday reflection. The word “repent” resonates heavy, often, I think. And indeed, the implications are heavy. Stop sinning. Live righteous. Choose a different path. Or something like that.
The ancient word literally means to turn around. In repentance and rest is your salvation, in turning around, back towards the Sovereign God… but Israel never managed to do that. But I want to. My feet pounded the ground as I ran and considered salvation that is grounded in repentance and rest. Salvation?
I think we all know we are in need of salvation of one kind or another, whether we adhere to the way of Jesus or not. There are parts of us that are broken, things that don’t work right. God’s invitation, then, to turn towards Him and rest in His sovereignty takes the heaviness away from repentance. It’s not that it is not weighty; it’s just that He bears the brunt of it. And He is faithful. That is the God story I believe. And it is real. It is compelling.
In repentance and rest is salvation. Jesus talked about a Kingdom that is God’s that is here on earth right now. And then He spent his life and death and resurrection showing what that Kingdom was like. He loved people, individually, communally and globally. He healed. He touched. He looked at suffering. He smiled at children. He humanized humanity.
The early part of the Jesus story ought to have been the end. People who’d watched his life brutally ended it, unable to accept someone living a reality that required a redefinition of expectation and behavior. They could not turn towards Him. They could not repent. They did not rest. Salvation is here, though, because of Him.
May this season of Lent be one where repentance and rest mark the way of our collective journey and individual journeys. May a quiet kind of trust emerge as our strength. May our perspectives conform to the One who humanized humanity. May He rewrite our hearts so that we can see. Salvation is here. The Kingdom is here. Life is full. Life is good.
I finished my run and came home to my best friend’s baby girl, who was born a scant nine days ago, and when it is hard to believe redemption is possible, an infant in my arms reminds me that we have reason to work out salvation and the implications of the Kingdom of God. An infant in my arms, an early spring run and a few words in Isaiah fused with the idea of Ash Wednesday helped me turn towards God today. Tomorrow it may be something else. Salvation is here.