Pain and Gain
The Road Less Traveled, written by Scott Peck, M.D., has long been a popular self help book, and one might even imagine that Dr. Peck conceived his book after listening to the Scriptures for the First Sunday of Lent.
Here we are in that season that calls us to reflect and prepare ourselves for the Resurrection. Our society is dedicated to personal comfort. Dr. Peck says we should be wholly unconcerned with our comfort, instead we should be concerned with the truth. If knowing and living the truth is our goal, then despite some discomfort and possible hardship, the real joy of life will automatically be ours. Those seeking only comfort and not truth will never find what they seek. A retreat is a time set aside for reflection and prayer. We get away from the usual things of life so that without distractions we can focus on our relationship with the Lord. Lent is a 40-day retreat for all of us during which we can reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the effort of Jesus to reconcile us with the Father.
Sometimes people refer to a retreat as “going into the desert” for solitude. We think of deserts as lonely and desolate places where there are no distractions. This was not the thought of Jews about their 40 years in the desert, nor of Jesus concerning His 40 days. For the Jews, the desert was a place where demons lived, where forces hostile to God made their home. To go into the desert was to place yourself in the midst of these forces. For the Jews, the desert was no place for contemplation; it was the place to be put to the test.
We must go into our desert during Lent and face the truth about ourselves, because we can grow too comfortable with our “usual” sins. It’s easier to confess them than to confront them, but we must squarely face those parts of ourselves that are weak, flawed, or lazy and change them. Jesus said “Repent.” To repent means to change one’s mind, so if we want to become holy, we must change.
Change is painful, but as Scott Peck warns, if it is comfort we seek and therefore avoidance of the pain of growth, nothing will happen. We must be painfully honest about our character and our choices and make bold changes. We must find out which is stronger, our love for God or our love for our personal comfort. The symbol of the rainbow promises something beautiful but unless we face our demons in the desert we will find no rainbows.
Peter talked about the gift of a clear conscience. Just how badly do we want one?
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