Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 22: Routines

"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’" -Luke 18: 9-14

I can identify with the Pharisee in this parable. I have a bad habit of getting passive in what I’m doing and in my spiritual and personal life. In sticking to a routine, I forget why I do those routines in the first place. I am comfortable in routine, but I rarely benefit from it. I forget to question where I can continue to grow. I get complacent. I forget to come to God with an open heart, and instead I seek comfort in the ordinary.

Looking back on my life, the periods when I have been the most uncomfortable and the most challenged are the ones in which I have grown the most. The times when I felt I was the most lost and the most hopeless are the times in which I had to find the strength to keep going; these are the times that have shaped me into the person I am today. During these times, I struggled with feeling broken while at the same time knowing that they are moments of growth for me in the long run.

I’ll be honest and say Lent is probably my least favorite period of the church calendar. It’s austere, and it usually means that I have to give up something I love for a not-insignificant amount of time. It’s easy for me to want it to return to the “fun times” of the calendar. I dislike Lent for the same reasons I dislike the difficult periods of my life. Lent is hard. It’s outside of our normal church experiences, and that makes it the perfect time to examine why we have them. Like the difficult times that lead us to personal growth, Lent breaks us out of our complacency and challenges us to examine our practices and our faith by asking us to take that period to be reformed intentionally. It challenges us to acknowledge our own brokenness. It reminds us to be more like the tax collector who came to God with an open admission of his flaws and a genuine desire to repent on and improve them, and it reminds us that we should not be passive in this pursuit. In Him, we are reformed and given new life.

Seven months into my time in Hong Kong, I’ve gotten comfortable. My work is not easy or predictable, but I feel more capable of handling the challenges that come my way. As I approach the end of my mission service, I ask that God continues to shake me up and make me uncomfortable so that I may continue to grow. I ask Him to help me see my flaws and to help me improve them. May I always be seeking renewal through His grace.

Sara Lowery is 23 and from the Dioceses of Alabama and Georgia. 
She is currently serving at the Mission for Migrant Workers 
and attempting to try every coffee shop in Hong Kong.

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