Lost sheep were my people, their shepherds misled them, straggling on the mountains: From mountain to hill they wandered, losing the way to their fold.Jeremiah 50
Blogging has been light because I lost my prayer book last week. I have ADD/ADHD and I need external cues and tactile prompts to keep my routines going. Without my book it was hard to pray, even if I could look up the same readings on line, it wasn’t the same.
I used to flog myself for these problems. There is a permeable barrier between life struggles that are caused by legitimate external (or medical) factors and struggles that are really the fruit of bad choices. They are all entangled together and, though it’s hard, it is important to disentangle character flaws from real things that are out of your control.
“Their enemies said, “We incur no guilt, Because they sinned against the Lord,”Jeremiah 50
But you can’t use the presence of sin in yourself or in others as an excuse for cruelty, especially to yourself. The temptation is to see all flaws and struggles and mistakes as sin and to be merciless to ourselves and others in meting out consequences for failure. The tendency is to read the words of Isaiah, picked up by John the Baptist, to “make straight His paths” as a call to do some real serious internal housecleaning. To straighten up and fly right, to be worthy of the Lord’s presence in our lives by acting perfectly from now.
“Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”Isaiah 40
But that’s not it at all. The call for repentance and self-examination goes hand in hand with a call to be merciful, to speak tenderly, to go out and gather the lost sheep. God will lay low the mountains and build up the valleys, God will part the seas and clear the brambles. God will show us the path to walk. Our job in preparing his path is to accept His Mercy.
Prepare for the Coming of Christ into your heart with honesty and ruthless self-examination, yes. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the paths of God are paved with Mercy.