IVP - Strangely Dim - In the Meantime

March 6, 2009

In the Meantime

Each week during Lent my church provides a card with a spiritual discipline on it, along with questions and reflections, to help us engage in some specific, intentional practices throughout this church season. Last week the discipline was faith; this week it's mourning. I'm seeing that the two go hand-in-hand.

A friend told me recently she had a hard time moving into Lent, as it seems there is already so much to mourn about; we don't need more suggestions! Indeed, every day a good portion of the news is focused on the economy: unemployment numbers, foreclosure percentages, Wall Street losses, decreasing sales. But most of us don't need the news to tell us we're in a recession; we each feel the crunch in some way, whether it's higher grocery bills or pay cuts or job losses. I imagine that many, many business leaders--as well as thousands of workers all over the country--are lying awake more than ever, wondering if their company, or job, will still be there next week.

The publishing industry has certainly not been immune to the shaky economy. We at InterVarsity Press, like publishers all over, are facing the effects of these uncertain economic times. What do we do? As our publisher, Bob Fryling, encouraged us at an office meeting this week, we work, we pray. We fight to gain perspective.

Bob offered us a "theology of recession," a perspective that, ironically, struck him as he was writing on a theology of growth. I looked up recession in the dictionary, and its first, more general definition is "the act of withdrawing or going back." It strikes me that Lent is a time of intentional recession, a time when we withdraw from some of the normal places and pieces of our lives and go back to the beginning: to the fact that we're made from dust and will return to dust; to the fact that we're sinners in need of grace; to the fact that we're sinners redeemed by grace. Lent gives us perspective on recession.

In this economic crisis, many people have been forced to give up things they loved, to go without anything that isn't an absolute necessity. During Lent, however, many of us choose to give something up, to refrain from using what we have to see who we are without it, to practice restraint, to hear God speak in the stillness and longing. It gives us perspective on what grows when we go without things--whether we chose to give them up or not.

Also in these hard times, many people are mourning--mourning the loss of their job or their house or their retirement. In Lent, though, we participate in a different type of mourning, not over material loss but over our own sin and the ways it separates us from God. And as we sit in this deeper sadness, we realize the significance of eternal grace and reconciliation with God--a relationship that can't be taken from us. We're also reminded that the God who would give up his own Son to save us still cares that deeply for us now and will be faithful to meet our deepest needs.

In Psalm 39 David asks a helpful question, one that's good for us to ask in these days of mourning: "What am I doing in the meantime, Lord?" (The Message). In this economic recession we work and we pray. And in this season of Lent we sit and we pray. Both recessions bring opportunities for growth in our faith in God, which is what the Holy Spirit loves to bring about in us. As we pray, as we mourn, the Holy Spirit works. And, in the meantime, as he works we gain perspective so that we can answer with David: "Hoping, that's what I'm doing--hoping."
Posted by Lisa Rieck at March 6, 2009 8:03 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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