Psalm 119:145-176 • Jeremiah 25:30-38 • Romans 10:14-21 • John 10:1-18
I will keep your statutes. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
(Psalm 119:145-146 ESV)
Today’s readings, as a whole, raise to me a “chicken and egg” question. What comes first in our relationship with God—God coming to us, or us coming to God? The Psalmist raises this most pointedly, but it is a theme in some manner in all the texts. Do we deserve God’s love because of our faith, including our faith in Jesus as his chosen one, or does God’s love come in any case, enhancing our faith through his grace? If our faith flags or waivers, do we no longer deserve God’s favor? And if we never had faith, no relationship even with a concept of God—does that mean we have no path to salvation? These are questions, like the chicken and the egg, to which I have no good answer.
I, like many “faithful” I suspect, have spent some significant times in what I might call a “spiritual desert,” feeling apart form God and from those in my faith communities (who seemingly have it all together in what they believe and how right they are with God). At times like these, I have to admit to praying to God for action on God’s part—to reach out to me, akin to the verse above. After all, with the constant metaphorical theme in these readings being that of lost sheep, is it not the shepherd who goes looking for the lost lamb?
Yet, for myself, I have found two things to ring truer than this metaphor and these realizations have changed my thoughts and prayers. First, the path back to God when I am feeling lost is one I must seek to take. That usually comes through performing acts of selflessness and charity, rather than an inward-facing action. As St. Francis said, “It is in giving that we receive.” Second, a relationship with God is not a final destination (at least on this side of the mortal coil), it is a journey. Like all long journeys, there are highlights, there are lowlights; there are twists, there are turns. It is I who wander, not God. And it is for us to return, not God. I pray in this Lenten season that God’s infinite patience with me does not expire, but rather that his light leads me on through my darkest times, even when my doubts and fears are taking me down wrong paths.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
— Bob Meyer