This is the first reflection in the Missio Lent series. Read the rest here.

As followers of Christ, we are well acquainted with the call to cultivate the faith of a child, but perhaps an overlooked aspect of child-like faith is child-like repentance. On this Ash Wednesday, the gateway into the Lenten season, I am struck by the words of the fictional, yet relatable Anne of Green Gables who observes:

“It gives you a lovely, comfortable feeling to apologize and be forgiven, doesn’t it?” [1]

In 2 Samuel 12, we witness King David repenting with desperation after Nathan confronted him. Nathan wisely used a parable to illustrate the gravity of the sin, and David burned with anger over the injustice in Nathan’s story. When Nathan revealed that he was talking about David’s own sins, David rightly directed his indignation inwardly. David was the man, and he made no excuse for himself.

Of course, David’s profoundly penitent words are just as relatable as the simplicity of little Anne’s.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,” David begs, “renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, ESV).

Certainly this could be our prayer each and every day, but it seems particularly appropriate to acknowledge this need for cleansing and renewal on Ash Wednesday. In addition, this year represents an opportune time for me to personalize this prayer for a clean heart and a right, renewed spirit, and to apply it to my professional life.

For the past thirteen years I’ve been mostly at home, mothering three sons. It has been a distinct blessing that my husband has been the sole breadwinner during this era. I have had the liberty of volunteering at church, Bible study, and my sons’ school. I’ve had the privilege of time dedicated to community building and of focused lingering with these boys who grow by the minute.

Back in 2002, after my first son was born, I left my job as an attorney without reservation. My firm had implemented a no-part-time policy for junior associates, and the policy made my decision an easy one. For the next decade, my professional pursuits included only freelance writing assignments.

But last year I enrolled in a certificate program at George Washington University as part of my preparation to return to a legal career—a daunting endeavor after such an extended period away. A few months ago I completed the coursework and took the certification exam. I began networking and secured, by God’s grace, a job offer. As I am on the brink of fully returning to professional life, I am reminded of many different aspects of work, including the satisfaction of using your intellect, the stress of feeling overwhelmed, and the shame of submitting less than your best.

I am praying for work assignments that feed the hunger to use my gifts, and for wisdom and a sense of peace in juggling more commitments outside of home. I hope to not feel defeated in or daunted by any task, but confident that I can do all things through Christ Jesus.

I am also praying penitent prayers over not always having worked as unto the Lord, seeking forgiveness for times that I’ve lacked faithfulness in vocation. I am asking God to purge me of any slothful tendencies, to blot out all my transgressions, to give me a renewed spirit. And just like Anne of Green Gables, I recognize that it is “a lovely, comfortable feeling” to know I am forgiven. Like David, I marvel that I am washed “whiter than snow.”

In the days ahead as we contemplate the meaning of the cross—where “life triumphed over death through the very event of the apparent triumph of death over life” [2]—may we embrace our snow-white cleansing with an awareness of its cost. Yes, we can know that lovely, comfortable truth of forgiveness in every area of our life—from the professional to the personal, and everything in between—but the reality of that truth is represented by the unjust penalty of the cross for our blameless Lamb. May we humbly accept God’s mercy with the resolve to live for Him, by Him, and through Him in all things.

Kristie Jackson is an attorney and author residing in Northern Virginia with her husband and three sons. Her books include Sharp Sticks: Essays of Embarrassment and Reflections on Redemption and Making Room for the Light (an Advent devotional). She has spoken on the joys and challenges of motherhood, and the sufficiency of God’s grace in times of suffering. She posts on her website weekly: www.kristieejackson.com.

[1] L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (London: L.C. Page and Co., 1908), 76.

[2] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 212.


Photo: Andrew Peat