When you look to find a job, the first thing you need to do well is write a cogent, and precise resume. In that document, you must make sure your potential future employer is able to see you in the very best light. Now, I’m certainly not talking about making a resume like the one a certain New York Congressman made when he ran for office. Oh NO! But you do have to put your personal history in the best light.
And most importantly, you need to understand that vulnerability and weakness are not valued and praised in American culture. We prefer to be seen as strong and in control of the world around us. We lead with self-reliance and experience shame when we fall short or depend on others. So, be sure and leave that stuff out of your resume!
Which is a real shame, because being open and honest has been – and still is – the best policy. Even when job hunting. And as we begin this season of Lent, our very fear of vulnerability and weakness is the main way that sin enters our lives. We’d rather try to do everything ourselves than rely on God. We’d rather grasp for wisdom than admit that God knows more than we do. We seem to “make a scene” where we are “keeping it all together” and give in to the temptation of trying to fix things on our own, rather than wait for anyone else—even God. We easily give way to our impatience and our desires for more. In the end, these temptations are a symptom of our distrust of God.
We said these words from Psalm 32 today: “Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.” There is no one more trustworthy than God. God’s love and compassion are made known to us from the creation to Christ. God, who created us, knows our blessedness and our vulnerabilities. And yet, why do we resist this loving embrace of mercy? Why do we treat God’s embrace like that of one from an unwelcome stranger?
In 2012 the University of Rochester reworked a famous “marshmallow experiment” with children. The original Stanford University study tested children’s ability to delay gratification in the face of temptation. They were presented with one marshmallow and promised that if they waited to eat it, they would receive two marshmallows as a reward. The reworked [Rochester University] study demonstrated that children would wait for the reward four times longer if the researcher first demonstrated reliability and trust than if the researcher acted unreliably. Trust in the researcher was a key element to endure the trial of temptation.
As we begin our Lenten journey, we begin with the endurance and trustworthiness of the God who created us. We begin with the God who knows us in our weakness. We begin with the God who embraces us with mercy. We begin with the God who catches the broken pieces when we fall apart.
In Adam and Eve, we witness the seductiveness of delight and wisdom that pulls us into ourselves and away from naked vulnerability before God. The tempter is at it again in our Gospel this morning when he attempts to draw Jesus into glory and self-reliance. We see Christ’s example of wrapping himself in the embrace of the scriptural witness as a way of recalling the God who was trusted by generations before us. We rejoice in the arrival of merciful angels who wait upon Jesus in his exhaustion.
We do well to think about those times — in our own lives — where we discovered that trustworthy embrace that mercifully caught our hubris and brokenness. Where can we reliably find the loving eyes that look upon us with compassion and forgiveness? Where can we find the loving words of grace and the embrace of angels?
Trust just doesn’t happen. Trust grows over time and experience. God invites us to grow in trust as the community of the faithful. We grow in that gift of faith as patience and endurance covers us when we endure the tragically recurring trials and temptations. With the whole company of saints — and over time— we learn simply to fall into the embrace of mercy. We fall into the arms of healing. We fall into the hands of love, and the grace of Jesus Christ, God with us, forever. …may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.