Monday, June 3, 2013
Mud and Water: Repentance
I once read that in grammatical terms, the words repent and believe both function as a synecdoche -- the figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. Thus, repentance implies faith and faith implies repentance. One cannot exist without the other.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.
-- Mark 1:14-15
Understanding repentance is hard for me. Especially when I realize a stronghold in my life and I don't know what to do with it. It's like this elephant in the room and I know I need to turn from it but I don't always know how. These past few weeks have been wonderful -- but also strange for so many reasons, mainly because I cannot seem to write about my life. I can write about tips for apartment hunting, the benefits of yoga, supporting animal rescue groups or other topics for work, but I can't seem to write about the heart.
A couple of weeks ago it became clear there was a stronghold that I needed to address by God's grace. It started out as a vague form of bitterness that I couldn't place, and before long, it turned into something that was stealing my joy, a sin I so desperately needed to repent of. When I put a name on it, every time I let it surface and poison my heart and the people around me, it was like God was pricking my heart, drawing me back, reminding me that this wasn't leading to life.
We read Romans 3 in my community group, and my own tears shocked me when the words came to life.
"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness..."
And there I was, crying the awkward, ugly cry in front of these people - completely vulnerable. I knew my heart was poisoned because my words were lifeless. Everything I had been saying lately to my husband or to my family was a product of envy, entitlement, anger and fear. I was full of a critical spirit, I judged everyone and cut them down in a conversation that was dressed up like one of those "bless her heart" kind of talks. I didn't trust the Lord and his provision for our future, so I nagged to my husband. I wanted what others have, so I told myself I deserved it. But I knew I was fooling myself and my heart began to harbor bitterness. And with this lie grew a seed of doubt, because where repentance is ignored, so is belief.
But the thing about Jesus is that he doesn't leave us in our brokenness.
He conquered the grave, bringing light to much more than an empty tomb. Instead of using my lips to curse, I can use them to bless and to bring Him Glory. My community made sure I knew this, surrounding me with love and (seriously) cherished words of biblical wisdom. I learned that experiencing repentance brings discomfort because we're children of God... that suffering is a part of sanctification, that repentance is a daily process and it all starts with recognizing the sin for what it is without dressing it up as something noble or pretty. And that's what I'm trying to do with you right now. The honest, awkward reality. But they helped me see that there's something beautiful in a broken and contrite heart -- in bringing ugliness to the light.
A friend gave me a book about using our words to bless, not to curse. I feel like I'm starting to understand, all over again, that it's not about beating yourself up. God views us through the lens of Christ, not as a failure. I'm digesting the words of scripture and beautiful commentary, learning that in many ways it's about training my thoughts -- declaring war on thoughts that turn into imaginations which then turn into strongholds. But more than anything I'm learning my need of a Savior, a reality I can rejoice in because He is victorious. I am praying for a renewed joy in my salvation, a thankfulness that produces real fruit.
Are you beginning to recognize a stronghold in your life? Are you afraid to address it? Let me be the first one to encourage you: don't let it take root, don't let your jealousy or your lust or your obsession with perfection stand in the way of seeing an empty tomb. It's empty because He won the battle, and He endured affliction and suffering to bring you into the family.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. -- Psalm 119:103-104