Thursday, February 23, 2012


I came across a quote from Stanley Hauerwas' commentary on Matthew while preparing for yesterday's Ash Wednesday sermon. Hauerwas, in his typically poignant way, shared how "nothing enslaves us more than that which we have convinced ourselves we cannot live without."

The words forced me to think all day yesterday about what has me enslaved. I have convinced myself that there are all kinds of things I cannot live without. In a weak moment in New York City last weekend I convinced myself that I could not live without the Tory Burch shoes I have been eyeing for more than a year. I later convinced myself that I could not live without a little frozen custard with chocolate pieces mixed in at the Shake Shack. I often convince myself on the weekends that I cannot live without a couple extra hours of sleep. I am convinced that I cannot live without coffee in the morning and Diet Coke in the afternoon. There are all kinds of things that have been added to my life and my closet because I just could not live without them at the moment. And certainly we all have sins that we have convinced ourselves we cannot live without. As a pastor I hear about sins that have us enslaved all the time. I'll let you do your own thinking here instead of naming my own.

I don't like being told that I am enslaved to anything. Being enslaved has a rather negative connotation - like being behind bars or cuffed to something powerful without a way to find the key to unlock the cuff. I can justify each of these behaviors and purchases. I am rather good at justifying my actions and even the words that come from my mouth when someone has cut me off on I-395.

But God is even better at providing the justification.

Part of my Lenten discipline is an effort to look all around me and see what I have acquired that is not really necessary. Lent is a time to get naked instead of adding layers to ourselves. It is a time to clean out instead of store on. It is a time to look deep within and see that to which we are enslaved.

We have been invited to return to God with all of our hearts. We have been invited to come back home and receive a clean slate. We are forgiven. We are loved. We are adored.

When you see me, please don't judge me for my new shoes and if we are being honest, the bag I added to match them. Please do continue to encourage me to look deep within, to use this holy season as a time of examination and reckoning. Please ask me often how it is with my soul.

I'm ready to fall in love all over again.


Margaret A. Emelson said...

Richard J. Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" suggests keeping a diary of confession as a way to pause and reflect on the serious nature of our "enslavement" to the things which prevent us from laying bare our inner faults and our sins of omission. Your blog entry has motivated me to try this spiritual discipline during Lent.

Jerry Roberson said...

I love Margaret's suggestion. Foster is my favorite Christian author, and his words are always a welcomed challenge.

For me, I am constantly enslaved to pizza (quick, easy, and filling); therefore, giving it up for Lent is a BIG challenge.

My "skeleton in the closet" enslavement is nothing controversial, but it is a bit embarrassing. Like Donna's shoes, it falls into the category of material possessions; and as my credit card (Ebay) history might reveal, it's something I cannot seem to get control of, which should trigger the realization in me that it is indeed enslavement.

Lent is probably my least-understood of the Christian seasons. I grew-up in a less-liturgical church tradition ... one that did not observe Lent. In these 40 days, I'm not quite sure what God may reveal to me. I'm hopeful it will be clear; I'm sure it will be worthwhile; I may even be surprised to see God use my embarrassing enslavement for something good beyond my own personal satisfaction.