This months blog is written by Martin Lees, one of our readers
This week I took my wife’s car for its annual service. It always seems expensive but of course it is essential to ensure that the car stays safe and roadworthy, and to avoid bigger problems cropping up so that the car lasts a good long time. Sometimes we are already aware of a problem – that funny knocking noise. At other times we might just feel that it’s not running as smoothly as it should. And there can be problems that are not at all apparent until it’s too late, such as a worn tyre.
Next week I’m meeting with Tim, our Rector, for my annual review as a Reader. Again it is good, once a year, to take a stock check, to see what’s going well and what could be improved.
In the rhythm of life it’s helpful to include similar, regular reviews of our own walk of faith, and the season of Lent is intended to be the annual opportunity to undertake our own personal MOT.
Jesus went out into the wilderness for forty days for his initial “roadworthiness test” before setting out on the highway which led ultimately to Calvary. Sometimes we go through wilderness experiences, and those tough times can actually turn out to be the occasions when we rediscover God’s love and grace, and our total dependence on Him. But if we are fortunate enough to be in a relatively benign, contented phase of life we might need to be more proactive and set a fixed time – such as Lent – to place ourselves fully under the searching gaze of God, in a place of solitude.
When a car is serviced the mechanic needs to look under the bonnet, and maybe to raise the car up on a ramp to look underneath. If we want God to “look under the bonnet” of our lives then we need to strip away all the clutter, the thorns and weeds that have sprung up around the green shoots of our faith and that may be in danger of choking it. Giving something up in Lent may help this process, if it is something that dominates our thoughts too much and might be getting in the way of our relationship with God. But the key thing for you might be to take up something new – to be more consistent in setting aside times for reading the Bible or for prayer. Or you might consider joining a homegroup, where you can be encouraged by, and learn from, others’ encounters with Jesus, as well as sharing your own experiences to build up your fellow pilgrims. As a church we aim to be a loving community who encourage one another in our faith, and homegroups are an excellent way of putting this into practice. If you aren’t already a member of a group, do speak to Tim or one of the other leaders about which group might be most appropriate for you.
One homegroup is currently following the Diocesan Lent course, on Wednesday evenings. We’ve only met once so far, so its not too late to join us!
Stripping all away, to enter our own wilderness, enables us to encounter Jesus in the raw, where it is just Him and me, with nowhere to hide. Of course God already knows what’s going on “under the bonnet”. He doesn’t have to wait for us to choose to reveal ourselves to Him! So this process is really about examining our own hearts honestly in His presence, allowing God to point out what needs fixing or throwing out, or to discover what’s missing that would help us to function better.
In some ways this is a reversal of Adam & Eve’s hiding from God in shame in the Garden of Eden after they had disobeyed Him. Because of what Jesus has done for us we no longer have to hide, but can come before God “naked and unashamed”, knowing that we are flawed and yet totally and unconditionally loved. We can say to our Father, as the psalmist said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting“ (Ps 139:23-4). Why not use this Lent to submit to God’s thorough MOT test, to discover how we can become more like Jesus, and more like the unique individuals we were each created to be?