February 29

An extra day - a breather; a pause.
Crisp air, rushing winds, but deadness still sits on parched and empty branches.
Just enough warmth to warrant hope and a hint of squishyness in the mud -
To promise the dawning of spring.

Lent is a season of austerity - a time away from what is our common lot.  I put off a habit and add one that requires discipline.  I wonder what it is really all about - the ashes, mourning, reflection on spiritual life.  Perhaps the last moments of this winter are a visual, experiential reminder of the deadness of soul, which without Christ's redeeming - and resurrecting - work, would remain our permanent condition.

Winter's deadness seems to say, "Come, and sit a while in this quiet emptiness.  No life is visible in me, yet we know resurrection is at hand.  But, for now, wait in it - feel what the absence of vibrant life is like.  And wait.  Yearn.  Hope - while it is dark and bleak.  Be still in it.  Do not merely rush through this time, with your sight set only on survival.  Welcome this pause.  Let it have its work."

And so I do.  It takes work to be still.  To not jump ahead of where I am.  It takes both presence and presenting.  I must hold myself in this moment - present to it - while also presenting myself to the Spirit of God, as His vessel.  "Come, fill me while I wait," I say, knowing that in the stillness I am not alone, for He is ever with me.

I know this to be true only when my spirit is awake to His presence.  I heard Him in the song on the radio.  A pure, angelic voice singing, "Holy, holy, holy." - words so familiar, but calling me yet again to the adoration of this merciful and mighty God.  In His might I may fear Him too much and falter in my courage to be present to Him.  But in His mercy I am welcomed simply as I come with no demands but that I come, that I be, that I need, that I trust; the only demand is that I see and taste and savour this moment as a gift from His kind and tender hand.

He, Who loves the limping soul - it is He Who walks through the winter stillness and whispers His promise of hope and fulfills His promise of presence: "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Why the double promise?  Are they not one and the same?  No, in fact it is not redundant.  In the promise, "I will not leave you" we are assured His presence will not be lost - He will truly be present with us every step of the way.  But forsaking?  That has everything to do with trust and security.  It encourages us to want His presence - it tells us, "It isn't merely my presence I give, but my welcome."

I have experiences of people not leaving me - there is a joy in that to some degree.  Faithful friends and family who remain - this is a picture of permanence and presence.  But more than once I have had the bitter taste of feeling forsaken - emotionally discarded, abandoned and rejected.  Jesus' second promise here offers me far more comfort than the first.  I have His presence (I need His presence).  But I need even more to trust that His presence is good, kind, merciful and that it brings a promise of welcome.

"There is welcome for the sinner and more graces for the good.
There is mercy with the Saviour; There is healing in His blood."  - Frederick Faber


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