thought it was empty. He had pointed it downward, but when he pulled the
trigger, the kick raised the barrel. The gun fired a bullet.
And his best
friend lay on the bed bleeding heavily from a stomach wound. He later died
on the operating table.
when my phone rang.
One of the
young men in the youth group at my church had shot his best friend.
Heartache, remorse, and pain poured from the boy and his family.
this young man navigate this tragedy?
life be ruined? Where was God?
the grace of God, the support of the church and community, and his personal
resiliency, this young man rebuilt his life out of the ashes of tragedy.
But I have
never approached the season of Lent in the same way since that year.
Christian season of Lent is a time for prayer, penitence, and reflection.
That event caused me to reflect deeply on the meaning of the spiritual life.
abridge what I am still learning.
and Mary spoke them to Jesus after their brother had died: "if only."
"If only" —
an expression of an unspoken desire that surfaces in the middle of heartache
and tragedy. Among other things, these words express a yearning to undo
to undo a tragic mistake is among the strongest desires I have ever
encountered. The bitterness of remorse, the fear of alienation, and the
resulting loss combine to weave a depth of sorrow that is beyond expression.
of sorrow is what Jesus took to the cross.
was to transform the terrible mistakes and sins of humanity. His death does
not undo them; it transforms them.
of Lent is a time to face the things we desire to undo and to find a fresh
outpouring of the grace of God. It extends from March 1 through April 14
journey through this season, let’s strive to become aware of the contexts in
which we may think or speak the words "if only."
The goal of
this discipline is not to eliminate the words "if only" from our thoughts
and vocabularies. Instead, it is to help us understand our thoughts and
awareness, we can move forward in life.
forward in our spiritual lives means that we move on from the past. We are
powerless to undo anything that has already happened. However, we can
release to God those "if only" things that are obstacles to grace. God’s
grace offers new beginnings.
beginnings arise from new questions. A fresh question asks, "What is now
possible because of this?"
The power of
that question lifts us beyond the immediate circumstance. It opens a door to
seeds of transformation.
If we can
experience what we thought was impossible, it will change our faith, enrich
our lives, and transform the world.