Scripture: “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
[Joel 2:12-17 NIV] One of the interesting things about being in a relationship with someone is the times when you are apart. If you love someone, and truly enjoy being with them, you don’t want to be apart. I know this to be true from personal experience. Debbie and I have been married for a little over twenty years. For most of the time we have been married she has worked in the pharmaceutical industry. She would have to travel quite a bit and on occasion was gone the whole week. It was not my favorite part of her career, but I came to accept it and we found ways to minimize the impact on our relationship and family life. Debbie was always very intentional about staying connected even when we were not all in the same town. There was one part of being away from each other that never got old. The one part of Debbie traveling I always looked forward to…her return. I always knew that she would return and that was the part we always looked forward to in every trip. Many times our phone conversations would end with the words “one more day.” There is something extremely important, meaningful, and filled with hope about returning to where you are loved. This is the story of Lent. God created all of humanity to be in relationship with God. All throughout the story of humanity – from the fall to today – we wander from God. In The Book of Joel we see that God wants for us to come home. God, through Joel, declares “Return to me with all your heart.” God longs for all of us who have wandered away to return to God with all our heart. God is waiting for us to come home from our journey. Maybe for us it was the journey of doing it our way, the journey of chasing financial success, the journey of trying to find pleasure in the things of this world. Whatever the journey we have been on God wants us to return to Him with all our heart. Today is the day to return to God with all your heart, there is no better day. Regardless of how far you have journey from God, God wants you to return. Make the intentional decision to return to reading Scripture today. Make the intentional decision to pray to God today. Make the intentional decision to journal, talk to a Christian friend about your faith, or have lunch with someone who can mentor you in your faith. Today is the day. There is no better day to return to God. Prayer: God of grace and glory, thank you for loving me enough to long for my return. Today I want to come home to your loving embrace and follow you more closely. Today I pray that your Holy Spirit would enfold me and I would take simple steps back into your loving arms. I want to live for you. Amen.