There are many words that probably don’t roll off our lips with ease. One of those words is the R-word: repentance. Perhaps we put up a good front, chant it regularly, but despise it on the inside. That’s been me, at times. Often times.
Many might imagine the word repentance as a simple sorry. That’s not what it means.
Many might imagine the word involves self-flagellation. That’s not what it means either.
But it’s a real word. A necessary word. And, yes, even a hard word.
Not long ago, I dipped into Eugene Peterson’s work, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. The subtitle: Discipleship in an Instant Society. What a needed message for life today.
In the book, he lays out this descriptor of repentance:
Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for you sins. It is a decision. It is deciding that you have been wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the strength, education and training to make it on your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbors and your world. And it is deciding that God in Jesus Christ is telling you the truth. Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts.
Honestly, I’m in a season of repentance. It is one that has called for tears at times. Those tears can be a washing to the soul. It’s also been a season of being sorry for deep-rooted sin in my life, which has called for apologies at times. It’s ultimately called for the demise of me, all to be replaced by the work of Jesus by the Spirit.
But I’m realizing more that this repentance, true repentance, is calling for a decision. Repentance is where grace and decision kiss. It’s a grace-decision in the midst of I-don’t-feel-like-it moments. It’s a grace-decision that leads to steps of deep change.
You see, I am much like what Peterson describes. I easily take on a god-complex. And it’s evil. When I take on that god-complex, and my god-complex is not satisfied by others, I get angry…or worse.
Interestingly enough, this god-complex and anger does not look anything like the one true God we know in Jesus Christ. God is not emotionally volatile when he doesn’t get his due obedience or praise. Sure, he is emotional. But that emotion is firm in the security of knowing who he has been, is, and always will be. Again, it’s not a volatile emotion.
So I am learning to unlearn things – about God, about myself, about others, especially those closest to me. This is destroying my own god-complex.
I’m looking to walk in repentance. I no longer despise this word (at least on the inside, if not with my words). It is a close friend of mine, one I’m trying to hold near to my bosom, though it hurts at times.
I’m also truly learning that the path of repentance is best walked with others. And so I have those who have come alongside me to listen, pray, speak the word of God, and pronounce the reminder that forgiveness is the companion of repentance.
I’m thankful for the R-word; today I embrace repentance. I remember that it is the Lord’s kindness that leads us to repentance. And I am grateful for the assurance that “a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
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