Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
On this blessed Easter Day, it is our pleasure to share with you the winning submission to our Lenten writing contest.
We asked all of you to reflect on the prompt, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1), and your responses were overwhelmingly rich in wisdom and that special brand of perspective that comes from personal experience. You gave us much to ponder and contemplate this holy season, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to learn from all of you.
When it came down to the actual judging, it took two rounds of sorting and ranking for us to narrow down the entirety of the submissions to a final five. “This is hard!” was a constant refrain from those doing the reading and sorting. Thank you to everyone who participated and made the judging so difficult.
It is our joy to share with you our five favorite submissions over the next several weeks, starting with our contest winner, Emily Olson. Congratulations, Emily, on winning a museum-quality giclée print of artist Edward Riojas’ cover art for the second edition of He Remembers the Barren, and thank you for reminding all of us that, whatever our station in life, we are all waiting for the same, certain thing: Christ’s returning to us.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
I am not a patient woman.
I am impatient in my daily vocations. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel at stoplights. My frustration rises when my children ploddingly put on their shoes before school. I shift from one foot to another when my son prattles on about superhero plots and I need to make some calls. My temper grows short when dinner isn’t coming together quickly enough for my taste. I frustratedly text my husband “ETA?” when he’s two minutes past his expected arrival home.
And my impatience seeps past the everyday struggles to keep schedules and order. The relentless passage of time presses upon my flesh and my heart. I want our financial goals met now. I want sick and despondent friends and relatives healed and soothed immediately. I want to know my marriage will last and thrive for many decades and our children will grow to faithful and joyful adulthood. I want to know that I matter and those that I love matter. I want to know that we are not forgotten. Too often, this means I reach for my gleaming phone, impatient for another hit of dopamine, desiring connectivity amidst the gaping hole of mortality that hovers over us all.* Too often, this means I am angry and irritable, eating my bread anxiously and toiling miserably, fallibly trying to make this world and us and me matter.
So I sit in the pew, cognizant of the nervous flit of my thoughts, the selfish grasping of my desires, and the ultimate hardness of my heart. I am like Jonah, huddled in the back of a boat, trying in vain to hide from God. I am like the citizens of Babel, mucking about in the mud of my own internal universe, enthralled at my own dirty and miniscule tower. I am like Pharaoh, obstinate and brittle, trapped in my pride. I do not deserve Christ. Yet here I am, unworthy and hopeless. I am seeking the only salvation possible.
Jesus comes to me.
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
The pastor speaks His forgiveness.
“In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The faith granted at my baptism hears the name of the triune God and listens.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”
The Word enters my frail ears and kindles my weak faith.
“And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost’” (Luke 15:4-6).
Jesus enables my quivering voice, and I sing, my heart breaking. Jesus has done what I never could.
“Yes, Father, yes, most willingly
I’ll bear what You command Me.
My will conforms to Your decree,
I’ll do what You have asked Me.”
O wondrous Love, what have You done!
The Father offers up His Son,
Desiring our salvation.
O Love, how strong You are to save!
You lay the One into the grave
Who built the earth’s foundation. (LSB 438:3)
I stand and file out into the aisle, and I step, haltingly, toward the altar.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand. (LSB 621:1)
Jesus comes right to my mouth, my tainted, impatient, sinful mouth. His scarred body touches my tongue, and I swallow. His blood spilled for the world splashes down my throat. I am cleansed and forgiven, again. I am restored and made new.
From the moment water and the Word combined to make me God’s child, He has relentlessly pursued me. Hopeless and impatient me falls away and falls apart again and again. And over and over, Christ inclines His loving ear to me and hears my desperate cry (Psalm 40:1). I know that the One thing needful will never leave me nor forsake me (Luke 10:42, Hebrews 13:5). Christ has promised, and He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). He never fails. Amidst all of life’s incompletes and suffering, He remains, the Eternal Rock.
In the Word and in the Sacrament, I am immediately, and right now, with Christ.
I am not a patient woman. But Christ is patient and persistent, forgiving and loving. He will return to me again. I believe this. And so I wait.
By Emily Olson
* Idea acknowledgment to Peter Kreeft, quoted in 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke (p.46).