Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing…Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; (Joel 2:12, 28)
Following Jesus is an odd thing. On the one hand, God calls us to be “all in.” The text above calls for the deep work of inner transformation and God wants us to “rend our hearts and not our clothing.” In other words, no mere show for the sake of looking good. Surface transformation is almost no transformation at all. In fact, the thought of putting on such a show is so contrary to real transformation that it may even result in a step backward!
So God want us to devote 110% to the real work of becoming who we have been created and called to be. “Leave nothing on the field,” my coach used to say.
But the irony of such a calling is that just as God asks us to devote everything we have to this work, God already knows that we can’t actually accomplish this ourselves. We will never, left to our own devices, become all that God desires and intends us to be.
That’s why Joel 2 having verses 28 and following is so amazing. After God calls the people to be different and devote themselves fully to the work of becoming new and “returning to God,” God then says, “I know you can’t actually do this – that’s why I include this promise: My Spirit will come to you. Even though I want you to be all in, I want you to know that I am committed to being “all in” and more. I call you to come to me but in your weakness I promise, “I will come to you.”
And the promise is wider than we could ever imagine. While God calls you and I to dig deep inside out hearts to our very core, God promises that the work God will do is far greater and will include not only you and I, but “all flesh.”
Advent is about being all in – so we are as ready as we can be for God to act. So, be sure you are all in – leave nothing on the field. But be sure that when you rend your heart, the tear you make opens your heart to be receptive. Because what you can never do for yourself, God has promised, in Christ it is already yours.