[#pictureLent] Ash Wednesday / February 10: RETURN

By Amanda Bressler
Director of Children and Youth, First UMC
Clearwater, FL

First, read Joel 2:12-17

Have you ever been on a business trip or a vacation and could not wait to return home? You longed for your own bed and for life to return to "normal”?

I serve in youth ministry and over the summer I miss my own bed. I want to return to my nice comfy bed, crawl under my soft blanket, and not listen for whispers of youth or watch for cell phones to be hidden under pillows. When I am away, I get distracted from sleep. Even when I am back home, I then get distracted by "normal" life.

The same is true of my spiritual life. I am easily distracted. My cell phone, family and even ministry get in the way of where my focus should be. I get to a place where I need to return to what is needed. I need to step back and self-examine my life in order to become who I am supposed to be, not just the person I pretend or want to be.

In Joel 2, we see the request and declaration to return to God. Not only is there a longing for God's people to return, but also they are to return "with fasting and weeping and mourning." God is calling for a return with repentance, a return with repentance of the inner life not the outward appearance.

As we look to this Lenten season before us, let us long to return home. Not because we miss what is comfortable, but because we want to seek God with our whole self.

The call to repentance is not easy. We let the distractions of the world and our sin get between us and God. What would it look like if we did a 180 turn away from those distractions and sins? How would that change us?

In youth ministry, I am unable to function without a good night's sleep. As a Christian, I am unable to function without Christ. The journey to the cross is before us. Will we experience this season as "normal" life knowing we heard the story before or will we return to where it all started and experience the sacrifice through new eyes? The call to repentance is before us reminding us of the dust we came from but pushing us towards the eternal. Let us return...

Prayer: Father, we want to return to you. Help us know the distractions and sin in our life so we can return to you will full repentance. Forgive us for not always looking to you for provision and discernment. Let us experience your sacrifice. Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1. How can you experience this season in a new way?

2. What areas of your life do you need to return to God?

3. What are ways you can return with "fasting and weeping and mourning"?