The season of Lent is nearly upon us. A time to pause, reflect, pick things up and set things down. A moment to pray and see and seek and wonder. A season to be reminded that Christ is the focus.
But if I’m being honest? It’s hard to figure out what needs focusing on these days.
So let’s take it back to the start and outline why it is that our shoulders get tense and our stomachs ache and our lungs constrict when we feel that there’s just too much. When I look at the bills or the deadlines or the long list of places to go, something makes my head spin and all I can think is, “This is too much.”
It’s why books like “Boundaries” exist. We are terrible at doing things in moderation. We figure that if a quiet time is better with the Bible and prayer, it’s probably best with journaling and singing songs and blogging and Instagramming. Our ache for abundance gets a little distorted and what’s meant to pull us toward God starts to push us away from Him.
Genesis One: God creates. And He creates. And He creates. Go–pick up a Bible and look it up. He creates the heavens, the earth. The light, the dark. The water, the sky. The land, the seas. The plants, the seeds. The seasons, the stars. The sun, the moon. The birds, the animals. The bugs, the livestock. And then? He made man.
It feels exciting and full. It is abundance and it all points back to the Creator, and it is good. So good, in fact, that at the end of every day, God sees that it is good. And in his authority, He creates man and woman and what does He give us? Authority.
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen 1:26, ESV)
All is abundance. All is good. All is whole.
God tells Adam and Eve to cultivate and keep the earth that He has made. (Gen 2:15)
Cultivate: to work, serve (in this case so that it will grow)
Keep: to guard, protect.
And we know how it goes, right?
Now, the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that God had made.
You had one job: serve and protect.
And just like that, we fall. And when that happened? There was no shrapnel that narrowly missed the opportunity to lodge itself into the flesh of man. No bullet missed its target. No one got away unscathed.
It’s too much.
Those ideas, cultivate and keep, come back to us in Genesis 4.
Only now, when man tries to cultivate the land, it produces thorns. And as they are cast from Eden, they see an Angel at the entrance, put there to Keep.
To make sure they don’t come back.
If that feels ironic and heartbreaking, it should.
Everything is touched by the fall. What once was a gift and a delight is now tedious and angering and hard.
They start a new life. Adam sweats and pulls thorns out of his hands. Eve gives (painful) birth to two children. Brothers. And one day, the older–the one meant to protect the younger–starts to nurture some darkness. The Lord pulls him aside and He says, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Ruling over things–the original charge. But what happens?
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
That word? To kill? Even as I type this my pulse quickens and my stomach knots.
“To kill, slay: implying ruthless violence, especially private violence”
It is ruthless. It is violent. It is private.
Everything is touched by the fall. It’s too much.
Sometimes, I wonder if we don’t quite understand the lengths at which this influences our lives. Brokenness soaks into our lives like the blood of Abel, crying out to the Lord as it seeps into the ground that produces good plants and thorns alike — cursed.
And I go back to Creation. Abundance. Filling. Teeming. Moving. Living. It’s not too much.
It was so free. A far cry from me trying to schedule in a few moments for space and silence before the Creator. We were made to know nothing but that goodness. But now, our abundance seen through the lens of sin turns dark. It shifts to mindless and needless excess.
It looks a lot like scrolling through the internet, making claims that we don’t know are true about topics we know very little about because we just want to be heard. It looks like stating everything as red-letter because it makes us feel more in control. It shows up as meaningless busyness that we wear as a badge, trying to prove that we are worth something. It reveals itself as perfectionism and one more lap, one more mile, one less meal, one less dress-size.
Here’s the deal: we were made to ache for abundance, but in the Fall, we try to fill ourselves with excess in the hopes that empty things will satisfy us. Every ache we feel is pointing us toward Jesus: companionship, hunger, thirst, nearness, wonder.
This is where the glimmer of hope reveals itself. Not all is lost, for the ache we feel is drawing us nearer to the Holy Horizon of abundance and fulfillment, even if it’s only echo right in this moment. We hear it reverberate when things fall to silence and we have the space to sense how vast He is. When we de-clutter for long enough to stop tripping over all the things.
We often make mention of “all the things.” And it’s meant to be a joke, but what’s causing our tension and our stress and our inability to breathe is, at its core very simple: it’s all the things. It’s the excess. It’s the distraction. It’s the filling of the void with things that will never make a dent.
Sometimes we say “yes.” over and over and over because we think it makes us holier. We commit to too much or we stay up one more hour to write one more draft. We lose vision because we forget to focus. We walk into the living room and stop and ask: what did I come in here for?
May we take the time as we head into Lent to consider the actual state of things: The legacy of brokenness, the violent nature of the sin that seeks to rip us from our Saviour by offering counterfeit fulfillment, but also the tenacity of a God who is abundant and never wears us out. May we recall the long history of our kleptomaniac hearts that hoard for the hope of fulfillment.
And may we steep in the good, hard Word of God and say, “Ah, yes. I remember now. I remember why I came in here.”