One of the goals of the Lenten season is to purify our hearts and refocus our minds.
As we journey toward the cross, remembering the suffering and sacrifice of Christ, we are to surrender ourselves to the LORD anew, reconfirming our commitment to trust God.
This season should pull us away from the habits of entitlement (subtle or otherwise) that often characterize our daily lives.
No. Lent is not for us or about us, not even about what we are giving up or how we are fasting. Lent is about Christ.
Lent is about us seeing and understanding Jehovah more clearly, so that we can adjust our living, thinking and being in the world. How are you doing with that?
I’ll be honest, sometimes it surprises me how much I filter life through the lens of my comfort and preferences. Let’s face it, none of us like to be inconvenienced. We rarely choose to wait.
We are discomforted by not knowing the answers, especially when we can just google it. Duh! But when our comfort, choices, preferences and desires are at the center of our life, Christ cannot be.
Have you ever found yourself in the place that we find the children of Israel in Exodus 17?
The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” (Exodus 17:2, NRSV)
They are not asking for anything fancy. They do not want a miracle. They are not asking God to give something unreasonable or even unnecessary. All they want is water. Yet, it is not only about what they want. It is the attitude with which they demand it.
Be careful when you decide that God owes you something. Be on guard when you have said in your heart that you are somehow above being pruned, perplexed, perturbed and paused (see Proverbs 4:23).
It does not happen overnight. It happens subtly and slowly. Nevertheless, if we are not careful, we can become those who quarrel with God, and God’s people, when we do not get what we want, when and how we want it.
Entitled faith is not grounded in our trust in Christ; it is rooted in our belief that God should provide us blessings and experiences in line with our perceived needs and desires. This faith is devoid of hope and divorced from peace.
On the surface, the children of Israel asking for water seems rather benign. Water is a necessity in this life. We literally cannot live without it. If not for Moses’ response, we might have missed what was really going on here.
The issue is not so much that they needed water and asked for it. The deeper issue, and what we must guard against in our hearts, is that they used the occasion of their need to call into question Yahweh’s character.
They made it bigger than water in the Wilderness of Sin. Their complaining to Moses and demanding that a basic need be met, a need that they should have known was well within God’s purview and ability, revealed that they did not really trust Yahweh.
They doubted God’s plans and questioned God’s priorities. They did not believe that God would keep the good promise that had been made to them and their children.
They feared that the eternal God would flake on them and leave them exposed to the whims of their circumstances. They had “risked” everything leaving Egypt. They did not need this!
The truth is that it is easy to get fretful and doubtful in this life. Injustice, trauma, violence, the constant pivoting to respond to the next situation or crisis is exhausting. God understands.
When we are temperamental and prone to wandering, God remembers our frame. We are only dust (see Psalm 103:14).
Notice that God does not chide. The LORD simply tells Moses what to do. Get in front of the people. Take the elders – the ones who should know me – let me prove my power to them once again. Moses struck the rock and out flowed the much-needed water.
This story was a part of a long cycle of distrust for the children of Israel. It need not be so for us.
We can develop the habit of trust and faithfulness to God. We can expect God to be a promise keeper despite how things look and no matter how we feel. We can hide the word of God in our hearts so that when life comes for us, we will be able to stand and withstand the enemy’s onslaught.
Let us continue to use this Lenten season as an occasion to know the grace, love and power of God more completely. Lean into Christ when your soul is disquieted, and your heart is broken.
When you fall short, confess your sin to God and to one another. We are not without help and we are not without hope.
In fact, the hidden gem of Lent is that we already know how the story ends. Surely, we can trust Jesus to usher us safely to the victory that he has already secured. Surely.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a “Lenten Lectionary” series for Lent 2023. Each week, an article will be published reflecting on one or more of the lectionary texts for the forthcoming Sunday. The previous articles in the series are:
Lenten Lectionary | Expectations and Reality by Margot Hodson
Lenten Lectionary | Good News for Those Who Have Trouble Sleeping by Junia Joplin
Lenten Lectionary | Through the Wastelands by Christopher B. Harbin
Lenten Lectionary | Set Your Plow Deeper: An Ash Wednesday Meditation by Ken Sehested
An ordained preacher, writer and encourager, Bridgeforth serves as the senior pastor of the Church at Clarendon located in Arlington, Virginia. Licensed to preach in 2007 and ordained in 2012, she later graduated magna cum laude from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University with a Master of Divinity. Before entering ministry full-time, she practiced law, receiving her Juris Doctorate cum laude from the Howard University School of Law in Washington, DC. Bridgeforth is featured in the short documentary, “No. 3: Danielle,” jointly produced by Baptist Women in Ministry and Good Faith Media.