“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
13 And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
Perhaps you ran away from home as a child. You took your stuffed teddy bear, a blanket, some toys, maybe even some food and set out. But where to go? A friend’s house might be OK for an hour or two, but then where? A gully behind your house would be fun, but eventually you would get cold or lonely. So you go back home.
Perhaps you’ve done the for real. You’ve left home, family, and even God. Or you know someone who did. She went away to college, abandoned her faith, her family, and even went north to Canada. It was during the Vietnam war, and by the influence of her friends and others determined that it was better to live there than in the United States.
\Maybe you took such a trip. You left the church, your faith, and your God on a wayward, erring, and rebellious foray into a life of profligacy and licentiousness. You trued drugs, sex, and disobedience of any kind you could imagine.
One day, however, you realized that what you had left was far better than the best that lifestyle had to offer, or certainly all it had to offer in the end: a life of hopelessness, and meaningless despair.
Most likely you’ve not gone that far. But you realize you need to get back to God. God delights when sinners return to him. He calls us to himself and promises his lovingkindness will embrace us, forgive us, and take us back into his heart and family.
On Ash Wednesday we do just that. We repent of our sins. We acknowledge that we are but dust and will return to the dust of the earth. More than that, however, we rely on God’s goodness and mercy to forgive, redeem, and restore.
You may not always receive a gracious welcome from an abandoned parent, partner, friend, or colleague. But God is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. It’s a good day to return to God – this Ash Wednesday, and every day of our lives.