Good Strength for the Struggle

As we drove into the recycling plant I could feel the buzz of the workers, the dump tucks, and the bulldozers, and I was fascinated.  I said to the girls, “Look at how much stuff we throw away.  Where do you think it all goes?”  Into the ground, into a melting pot, into a grinder, broken down to it’s smallest elements and made into something new.

As Lent marches on, I imagine heaven is like the recycling plant, working overtime in full capacity during a time of throwing away, cleaning out, digging under piles; a time when the saints of God get organized, spruced up, trimmed down, and washed clean.  What does God do with all of the trash, with all of our sin?  He throws it all into the sea, forgotten and removed.  I imagine that this sea is like the big hole that the yellow dump truck pushes sky high piles of trash into; then covers it all up with dirt.  In time all the trash is consumed by the earth and forgotten.

Other things like metal, tires, paper, and plastics are sent to be recycled.  Something that was new became old and used up, and then through a process of regeneration it is made useful again.  I hope that this time of regeneration, this process of repentance is taking the used up, worn out, and damaged parts of my life and making them useful, needful, and new.

Saturday’s family cleaning day has left my pregnant back feeling strained and tired.  The garage, shop, barn, back patio, and art room are cleaned and beautiful again, but it was a labor.  My back screamed at me in services yesterday as I prostrated before the Holy Cross, and I wondered if I would make it.  On the third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent the Veneration of the Holy Cross offers an oasis for the aching soul that has been laboriously working.  Does my soul feel as weary as my back?  I asked myself that question as I listened to the hymns of commemoration.  Do I struggle spiritually as much as I do physically?  Is my soul in need of a refreshing as much as my back is in need of a rest?  Is my spiritual house coming into some kind of order?

On April the 6th our county offered a free cleanup day.  Everything we brought to the recycling facility was accepted, even trash, and it was free.  A service like that is hard to pass up, and the line of cars and pickups, most of them hauling a trailer of junk, attested to that fact.  No dumping fees, it was entirely free, and the workers were happy to accommodate.  Everyone benefits from a cleanup day.  The county is safer, more functional, and most importantly it is more beautiful.

In the same way God offers the free gift of forgiveness, but it is a labor to repent. No fees, just work. An offer like that is hard to pass up, and I hope that my struggle is worthy of the gift. Am I becoming more beautiful? Am I taking advantage of the grace offered during Great and Holy Lent?  Christ is our example, as His whole life was a labor of love.  He is not a man without knowledge of my struggle, and as I listened to the reading in Hebrews yesterday morning my heart was pierced,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Read the whole text here.

 And I remembered another scripture that has always humbled me and made me want to cling to Christ.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.   Hebrews 12:4 
He was tempted just as we are, He resisted to the point of shedding blood, and He did not sin.  And yet what is piercing, what is beyond comprehension, is that He empathizes with my weaknesses.  He understands.  He is perfect, and He feels compassion for me, a sinner.  This process of regeneration, of repentance, and labor is a journey of love.  God’s recycling plant is fueled by love, empathy, and patience, with communion as its final destination.  My beauty has everything to do with communion with God.  And this is something to struggle for and to labor to attain.  The suffering of the soul that struggles against sin, that labors for beauty, is held by the love and understanding of a compassionate God.

When Elder Paisios was asked, “What should I think about during Lent,” he answered,
You should think of the Passion, the sacrifice of Christ. We monks must continuously live the Passion of Christ, and we are helped in this daily through the various troparia hymns – all the Services. We are given the greatest opportunity during Great Lent to struggle and participate more in the saving Passion of Christ, with repentance and prostrations, with the cutting off of the passions and the decreased food, for the love of Christ.We must utilize, as much as we can, this spiritual arena, with the many opportunities and preconditions it gives us to approach closer to the Crucified Christ, to be helped by Him and rejoice in His Holy Resurrection spiritually changed, since we would have lived Great Lent more spiritually.I pray you good strength during Great Lent, that you may climb Golgotha to be near Christ, together with the Panagia and your Patron St. John the Theologian, and that you may participate in the fearsome Passion of our Lord. Amen.
         – The words of Elder Paisios the Athonite monk

I pray us all Good Strength.  May we enter the back stretch of Lent refreshed by the Holy Cross, and continue our journey with renewed commitment in full anticipation.  The Resurrected King is Coming!        

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