You’re invited… To the month of Elul…
Let me describe the party before you accept the invitation. It includes praying, looking at all that you have done wrong (and normally remembering what has been done to you), asking for forgiveness, and fasting eventually. Sound like your kind of party? Then Elul is for you!
Actually, I don’t think that does it justice. Let me describe it a little differently. The party during Elul is a little like the solar eclipse we just witnessed. Did you get to see it? It’s a rare occasion and it’s likely that we will only get to see it a few times in our lifetime, if at all. If you were close enough to its path, for just under three minutes the sky and everything on the earth turned a slightly different color. And everyone stood still. We just watched and marveled. Much like the solar eclipse, if you are at the right place at the right time and you stand still, you will see a divine event at work in you.
The High Holidays are a divine appointment that has been on God’s calendar for a long time. They are coming right around the corner in Tishrei. While we wait for them to arrive we can take a few intentional steps to be ready for the treasure in store for us. The fact that He told us to put these days aside is significant enough to expect that He has something in mind for us. For the solar eclipse, my family prepared by buying special glasses, and Elul is your chance to think about how to prepare your soul for G-d’s big event.
While it seems in Elul that we are preparing our hearts and minds for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, counter-intuitively, its actually G-d doing the work. It is merely our willingness to seek and encounter the living G-d that prepares us, no special solar eclipse glasses needed.
To help us keep our eyes on the L-RD we can follow the tradition of reading Psalm 27 daily during Elul. If you haven’t read it lately, take a minute to read through King David’s great words and then join me for these three steps to embracing all that G-d has for us in Elul.
Step one: ACKNOWLEDGING…
The L-RD is my light, and my salvation, whom shall I fear. Psalm 27:1
King David acknowledges who G-d is, what He has done, and how G-d has changed his life. Sometimes just remembering to praise or even acknowledge the L-RD in our lives is difficult. But seeing G-d and acknowledging Him really isn’t work, is it? If we sit still for a moment it’s not hard to think of something He is or does that has changed our lives forever.
Elul invites us to consider G-d before the High Holidays and makes space for G-d to work repentance in us. When we take time to acknowledge Him, we begin to line up our sights again with the Truth and the Light. When we acknowledge Him, we remember that we are safe enough and loved enough to face the vulnerability required for true repentance, and when we acknowledge that He is strong enough to carry us, we can actually give our sins to Him and believe they are covered by the blood of Yeshua.
So right now, right where you’re reading this, pause for one minute (literally) and acknowledge Him. Use the prayer below or say one of your own. Out loud. Trust me, it helps. (Maybe whisper if you are at work…wait why are you checking this blog at work?)
Father (Abba), I acknowledge that you are ________. I have seen you be my light and salvation when you have ______. And I am no longer afraid of ______.
If we get all the way to Yom Kippur without acknowledging Him, describing Him, and thanking Him for how He has changed our lives, we run the risk of missing G-d’s presence when we finally repent. He invites us to His house, prepared for Him to do the hard work.
Step Two: LISTENING …
It’s really easy to come up with a list of the sins to confess during this season. I can think of someone that I have hated in my heart, ways that I have indulged my flesh (mainly with Doritos and Taco Bell), or _____ (you fill in the blank with your sins). What has surprised me is that most of the time the L-RD has a different list that He really cares about. It’s not that these sins above aren’t worth killing, but generally they aren’t G-d’s priority.
Often, we treat symptoms of our sins like the cause. But the L-RD can see the roots with such clarity and precision that He can do surgery, immediately getting to the cause of something that we have been trying to keep buried. In one moment, He can point His laser light of the Holy Spirit onto that spot, simultaneously showing us the sin and then beginning to burn it out. For many of us, listening is the next step to freedom from a root that so easily entangles.
No time like the present, right? Pray this now:
Holy Spirit, hear my voice when I call. Be merciful to me and answer me. Lord, teach me your way, lead me in a straight path. Show me not only the symptoms but the causes of my sin. Holy Spirit, what are the things that need to be taken out of my life?
Did you hear anything? If so, write it down. Don’t forget. If not, try this again with a friend either over the phone or in person. Sometimes praying with someone else is hard but allows you to hear better than when you are on your own. I guarantee that if you learn to listen and allow Him to show you what needs to be removed, the L-RD will prepare you for the High Holidays in a deep and long-lasting way.
Step three: EXPECTING…
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:13-14
Are you ready to let go of this thing He has shown you? If so, this may be your year. How has it affected you thus far in life? What have the consequences been? If you are ready, then the last step of preparation is to live in expectation of His willingness to work in your life.
L-rd, thank you for showing me _____ in my life. I don’t want it here anymore and I know that I cannot stop without your help. Yeshua HaMashiach, you alone are able to take away the pain and consequences of this sin. I am confident of your goodness and my willingness to be my helper. I am expecting and excited for your work in my life this season.
The truth is that if you believe in Yeshua as the one who holds the full power and freedom of G-d, you’ve already been set free, but we easily forget. If we stop acknowledging, and we stop listening, then we also stop expecting. If you’ll lean in, Elul can be G-d’s built-in, repeating, grace-filled reminder system. He invites you to expect Him to do great things during the High Holidays because He’s done great things in the past, because He is currently doing great things, and therefore we can expect great things in the future. He is a G-d who saves and works on your behalf. He is the finisher of all our faith.
While an eclipse may seem amazing and many people stop to look because its rare and beautiful, its nothing compared to the surpassing beauty of knowing G-d. (Phil. 3:8) This Elul take the invitation to continue to acknowledge the L-RD for who He is, listen to Him, and then expect everything to change.