The Gift of Repentance

 

By Randi Peck

I have heard some parents recommend the “just ignore it” method when it comes to their young ones’ tantrums. I am sure that, for some parents, this can prove successful. As for my daughter, I will say that, ever since she was an infant, those kicking, screaming tantrums will not deescalate until addressed.

Currently, being “addressed” usually involves the “’panking ‘poon”, a chat, a prayer, and a prolonged hug. Often, this simple combination, saturated thoroughly with a dose of grace and gentleness, is enough to turn a twenty-minute rebellious episode into sweet, repentant tears and a voluntary “I’m sorry, Mommy.”

Now, I don’t always handle these events with patience, nor does my little one always respond to them with swift soft-heartedness. Nevertheless, I personally wonder sometimes at just how similar I am to my two-and-a-half-year-old…

In the midst of a rebellious attitude or a bitter heart, my tendency is to beat myself up, feel sorry for myself, and dig myself deeper and deeper into a hole of self-centeredness. This cycle continues until my heart is throwing the same, depressed tantrum, internally, that my daughter throws with no social restraint.

This is the result of incomplete repentance.

I have been reading the Old Testament, and I’ll be honest, it can be heavy when dealing with sin. Uzzah was smote dead when he accidentally touched the tipping Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6). Achan and his family were stoned after he disobediently stored some loot from their raid (Joshua 7). And anyone who touched even the edge of Mount Sinai would die (Exodus 19). Sacrifices, punishments, wrath, blood, and lots and lots of death… All the real and necessary results of sin.

You see, part of the reason my daughter calms down once I come talk with her, is because we all have a deep need for our sin to be acknowledged. This is why there were animal sacrifices. This is why Penance and Confessionals exist. This is why many donate to charity, read their devotions, and repeat their “I’m sorry’s”.

But there is no freedom in any of these methods, alone. We would like to think that somehow, someday, we will be able to bury our mountain of sins with a shovel of dirt… In reality, we are only adding to our debt, when our efforts are apart from God’s grace. Hebrews 9:9 explains, “According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper.”

Even the most devoted asceticism cannot cure an evil conscience. But thankfully, “As it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old… For he finds fault with [the old covenant] when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant… For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 9)

We need to acknowledge our sin. AND THEN we need to acknowledge their place… on the cross: paid for and overcome. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are saved and then embraced by our Savior.

Could it be as simple as the “panking poon” and a hug? Are we truly supposed to believe that Christ absorbed all of God’s wrath against evil so that now “the commandments of God are not burdensome”? (1 John 5:3)

“God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:30-31) Note here that repentance is a gift. Repentance is a sweet freedom, a joyful reality, and a “time of refreshing” (Acts 3:20).

It saddens me, not only when I consider how many hours and days of my life I’ve wasted on meditating on my own sin, but when I think of how many sisters I know who have only taken the first step of repentance… The sorrowful step that leads them into the muck and mire of their own hearts.

True, we cannot and should not ignore the cross. Our heart needs to acknowledge the price of our wrongdoing. But we need another step. A step past the cross, into the tomb…

In Matthew 28, the angel tells the women looking for Jesus, “Come, see the place where he lay.” Why would the angel command them to observe the place where their crucified Lord had lain? Because we need to know, beyond where Jesus is, where Jesus is not. There is power in witnessing that empty grave. To find that not only did Jesus lay in our grave, so that we would not have to- but to also find that Jesus no longer resides there. He is not laying in my sins, meditating on my faults, and holding them over my head- and neither should I!

Repentance no longer signifies a list of what you and I need to do to pay off our sins. Repentance is an acknowledgement- yes, of our wickedness that deserves wrath… But more fully, it is an acknowledgement of how he executed his justice, how he demonstrated his love, and how he exercised his power.

Repentance, you have probably heard, is defined as turning 180 degrees- so turn 180 degrees from staring downward into your wicked heart, and set your gaze up upward, on Christ- seated at the right hand of God, the King and Conqueror over sin and death.

Dear sister, please don’t stop at the realization of your sinfulness. I know you are wicked, I am too. I know that you have discovered more monstrosity within, than you ever accused your worst enemy of… But keep going… Keep turning… Keep looking until all you can see is the One who filled your grave… the One who then emptied that grave. “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28:8)

True and complete repentance ends in rejoicing.

This morning, as I prayed with my recovering, little tantrum-thrower, I was recovering from my own as well. So as I prayed over my daughter, I also prayed for my own heart: “Jesus, you know our hearts get really mad and really bad sometimes. Thank you that you died for those bad hearts. You also rose so we don’t have to be sad. Thank you, Jesus.”

And my sweet Myla and I went on our way, rejoicing.

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