Hanging On

“. . . he will forgive your sins.”
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins. If you do, times of spiritual strength will come from the Lord, and he will send Jesus, who is the Messiah he has already chosen for you.” (Acts 3:19-20)

This past Sunday and Monday we were once more reminded that this has been a winter we will remember for a long time.  The wet, heavy snow was quite picturesque as it collected on the trees.  The snow deposited on the oak leaves reminded me of a question I’ve meant to pursue for a long time: Why do some trees not lose their leaves in the fall?  Why do some trees keep hanging onto their leaves?  Well, I did some digging and discovered there’s even a name for the process.  It’s called marcescence

Apparently the leaves don’t form the cell layer necessary for the leaves to fall until much later in the year, often well into the winter and even spring.  Why they don’t form the layer – why they hang on – is a mystery.  Some believe it helps protect the trees from foraging animals like deer and moose that like to eat the young, tender branches with the buds on them.  Apparently the animals don’t like the dead leaves so they tend to stay away from the tender branches protected by the leaves that are hanging on.  Well, I know we don’t have any moose in our area, and we don’t have deer that can reach the branches with buds twenty feet or more up on our trees, but the trees still have leaves.  I wonder . . .

In Lent we are especially mindful of our brokenness, our sin, and the call to repentance that will enable us to receive the forgiveness of our sin and healing for our lives offered through Jesus.  We celebrate that promise of Christ each time we worship, but most especially when Lent culminates in Easter.  The opportunity to be forgiven is such a wonderful gift.  Sometimes it makes me wonder why folks hang onto their guilt and shame from their sin when God offers such an amazing gift of forgiveness and healing in Christ. 

When someone tells me they don’t think that God can or will forgive them I wonder with them about what purpose hanging onto the guilt and shame might have served for them.  Sound strange that we might choose to hang onto our guilt and shame because we thought it served a purpose at some point?  What if a person were to decide that the only way to avoid making the same mistake again would be to keep the guilt and shame as a reminder?  Their fear of repeating the sin is causing them to hang onto destructive guilt and shame.  The fear of repeating a sin is not the best motivation for healthy living.  A better motivation is the awareness of what healthy living in the will of God can offer that is so much more life-giving than the pursuit of sinful ways. 

Experiencing some guilt is part of the process that brings us to the awareness that we need to repent.  However, if we hang onto guilt and accompanying shame that develops with it we can be led to a place of despair.  We can hang onto the guilt and shame so long that we have forgotten why we feel unforgivable.  We just know we are unforgivable.  “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins. If you do, times of spiritual strength will come from the Lord, and he will send Jesus, who is the Messiah he has already chosen for you.”  These words of scripture proclaim the alternative to hanging on to guilt and shame.  They offer the path to life instead of death. 

I guess we know how but not really why the trees hang onto their leaves.  (Although I have to admit I haven’t seen any moose in my yard so maybe that theory has some merit.)  With guilt and shame we know both the how and why – and we know the alternative that will lead to healing and life.  “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins.”  I pray that God will help me repent when necessary and lead others with Christ’s love to do the same.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit http://www.survivingteendepression.com.

My new book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at http://www.wipfandstock.com and http://www.amazon.com.

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”

~ by revgenelson on March 19, 2014.

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