Monday, August 23, 2010

The Elul Challenge - Day 13 When My people ... humble themselves...

Actually the full quote from the title is: "when My people, who bear My name, humble themselves, pray, and seek My favor and turn from their evil ways, I will hear in My heavenly abode and forgive their sins and heal their land." It is from one of the books of the Hebrew Bible we almost never read, II Chronicles 7:14. The other books we pretty much never refer to or study outside of academic settings are Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, and I Chronicles.

The essence of this passage is in order to really encounter God and be able to seek forgiveness; we have to be humble and contrite. Something that is difficult for anyone with any sense of ego to do. For example, I am sure there is one or two of you out there who will stay in an argument well after it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are wrong simply because you are too proud to admit fault; how much the more so it can be with God.

So what can we do to diminish our sense of ego to truly engage in teshuvah? Well this weekend I had the opportunity to do a physical task that encouraged me to be humble. I spent the morning working with approximately twenty members of our social action committee cleaning up the side of a road as part of the Maryland Adopt-a-Road program.

Aside from making the occasional cracks about if we have to support the road through college, it was a good reminder to be humble in the work that we do. We all spent time cleaning up cigarette butts, McDonalds cups and wrappers, a myriad of beer bottles that the optimist in me hopes is from people drinking while walking and not drinking while driving.

It was a truly humbling experience because I spent the morning picking up trash, a task we usually pay others to do. And not only that, it was morning spent picking up trash others carelessly toss away with no thought to its impact on the surrounding environment. They just throw it out of a moving car and just keep on going.

There is a tradition of keeping two notes in your pockets. The first says, “For me the world was created.” The second note is, “I am but dust and ashes.” We keep these notes to remind us how important we are to God’s creation, but also to remind ourselves that everyone else is just as important, and that we are not as significant as we sometimes think we are.

Not a bad lesson for a morning spent cleaning up a road.

What will you do to help prepare yourself for the season of teshuvah mixed with humility?

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