There’s irony and paradox in hearing Jesus’ instruction to carry out our religious practice in relative privacy—along with the proclamation of Joel 2—on Ash Wednesday. How on earth do we balance the quietness of our hearts with a public call to repentance?
I love the show Rehab Addict. Nicole Curtis, the show’s host, is a contractor who specializes in restoring old homes—typically about 100 years old, sometimes significantly older. They are always in terrible, terrible shape.
The things she does to these houses are astounding.
In my younger, decidedly anti-Christian days, I did not like the way Christians asked God for mercy. It reinforced my idea that “the Christian God” was cruel and punishing. After all, if God was a loving and compassionate God, one would not have to beg for mercy. And if God was cruel and punishing but at the same time righteous and just, then human beings were clearly bad and unworthy.
This whole system of thought—shameful people and cruel God—made me want to stay far, far away from Christianity and Christian churches.