“Lent is a mercy,” wrote John Keble. “And the sinner is not to lose heart.” Many years later, Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) asked Christians to consider the power of change. Change in one’s life becomes more difficult if one is changing away from Christ. However, when we change towards Christ, we know we are becoming more like Him. In her book, The School of Charity, Mrs. Underhill wrote, “Jesus chose, as the most perfect image of the action of change, the working of yeast in dough…If the dough were endowed with consciousness, it would not feel very comfortable while the yeast ws working…Creation is change, and, change is often painful and mysterious to us. Spiritual creation means a series of changes, which at last produce, Holiness, God’s aim for men.” Yeast, such a little thing, capable of so much. But it takes time as St. John of the Cross understood, writing that that God teaches us to love and sometimes that is slowly.
Perhaps, instead of thinking change is challenging or ‘bad,’ we should consider change as a type of creation. As we approach this new week of Lent, let us ponder anew what the Almighty can do. Consider with us the poem by John Keble below during your Lenten meditations as God continues to refresh, renew, and restore you to Him this season.
First Sunday In Lent
“Angel of wrath! why linger in mid-air,
While the devoted city’s cry
Louder and louder swells? and canst thou spare,
Thy full-charged vial standing by?”
Thus, with stern voice, unsparing Justice pleads:
He hears her not–with softened gaze
His eye is following where sweet Mercy leads,
And till she give the sign, his fury stays.
Guided by her, along the mountain road,
Far through the twilight of the morn,
With hurried footsteps from the accursed abode
He sees the holy household borne;
Angels, or more, on either hand are nigh,
To speed them o’er the tempting plain,
Lingering in heart, and with frail sidelong eye
Seeking how near they may unharmed remain.
“Ah! wherefore gleam those upland slopes so fair?
And why, through every woodland arch,
Swells yon bright vale, as Eden rich and rare,
Where Jordan winds his stately march;
If all must be forsaken, ruined all,
If God have planted but to burn? -
Surely not yet the avenging shower will fall,
Though to my home for one last look I turn.”
Thus while they waver, surely long ago
They had provoked the withering blast,
But that the merciful Avengers know
Their frailty well, and hold them fast.
“Haste, for thy life escape, nor look behind” -
Ever in thrilling sounds like these
They check the wandering eye, severely kind,
Nor let the sinner lose his soul at ease.
And when, o’erwearied with the steep ascent,
We for a nearer refuge crave,
One little spot of ground in mercy lent,
One hour of home before the grave,
Oft in His pity o’er His children weak,
His hand withdraws the penal fire,
And where we fondly cling, forbears to wreak
Full vengeance, till our hearts are weaned entire.
Thus, by the merits of one righteous man,
The Church, our Zoar, shall abide,
Till she abuse, so sore, her lengthened span,
E’en Mercy’s self her face must hide.
Then, onward yet a step, thou hard-won soul;
Though in the Church thou know thy place,
The mountain farther lies–there seek thy goal,
There breathe at large, o’erpast thy dangerous race.
Sweet is the smile of home; the mutual look
When hearts are of each other sure;
Sweet all the joys that crowd the household nook,
The haunt of all affections pure;
Yet in the world e’en these abide, and we
Above the world our calling boast;
Once gain the mountain-top, and thou art free:
Till then, who rest, presume; who turn to look, are lost.