Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:29-30
Last evening, as I prepared for my first Ash Wednesday service at Stewartville UMC, I suddenly realized that this day marked an anniversary in my faith journey; the fourteenth anniversary, to be exact, for it was on February 21, 2007, during the Ash Wednesday service at my home church in Stoughton, WI, that I gave my life to Jesus Christ.
Since that threshold event, I have shared my ‘come to Jesus’ moment to individuals and groups alike: to close friends and extended family, at the pulpit and in conference rooms filled with members of the Board of Ordained Ministry. In short, I will share my faith story with anyone who will listen! But here lies the mystery; although I can easily recall which pew I was sitting in, and visualize the grainy black and white video clip played during Pastor Lamarr’s sermon, I cannot recall the deeper heart-and-soul process of bringing me to that Jesus moment. My guess is that it was the beckoning, inviting movement of the Holy Spirit at work through the theme of penitence in that evening’s scripture, prayer, and song.
Penitence. A word burdened with eye-rolls and groans of negativity. For anyone familiar with the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous though, true healing cannot begin until penitence is given freely, and without expectations. The act of penance, therefore, is a good thing. Fourteen years of journeying with the One to whom I gave my life has taught me that my burden of sin is lightened whenever I repent for actions that are hurtful toward others or myself in the assurance of God’s forgiving grace in Jesus Christ. To put it more simply, God loves me, in spite of myself!
My prayer for you during this season of penitence is that you may do so with the assurance of God’s forgiving grace in Jesus Christ.