It was late one night while my husband and I were getting ready for bed. As I went through the motions of brushing my teeth and washing my face, I was bemoaning to him that I felt like I was functioning from underlying frustration in everything, especially toward our kids. It’s been a bit of a tough and crazy season, and that makes it extra easy to blame this frustration on outside circumstances… which is pretty much what I was doing.
Judah quietly listened, and then said, “I think one thing contributing to the problem is…” And he proceeded to tell me what he thought the underlying sin issue might be. Oh boy. Do you know that feeling when defensiveness bubbles up, tightening your chest and causing all sorts of yucky excuses to want to tumble from your lips? Well, that’s exactly what I started feeling. I wanted to open my mouth and let all of them loose.
Now, this summer has been an intense one. Extra busyness, health problems, and difficulty sleeping have added to the bait for frustration for sure. But when Judah made his observation, I felt that familiar twinge of conviction – I knew he was right. I knew I could either block it out and justify it with all sorts of reasonable-sounding excuses, or I could silence my pride and admit that there was truth to what he was saying. And, I’ve had enough experience to know that although the option of repentance stings a lot more at first, it’s ultimately the path to freedom and growth and relief from that “sin that so easily entangles” (Heb 12:1). And I knew that I would 100% regret choosing the other option over this one.
I paused, pushed away all the pride and yucky excuses and said, “You’re right. I think that’s playing a part in this.” We spent time praying together before falling asleep, and in the morning I could tell there was a change; a lightness in my soul. The day played out so differently than other recent ones had. My attitude toward my children was different. My attitude toward the household work was different. My attitude toward unexpected messes and tantrums was different. And I knew it was because repentance had opened up that pathway of grace that had been blocked by unconfessed sin. Oh, it was a glorious feeling!
I’m sad to say it often takes me too long to come to that place of life-giving repentance. I make subconscious excuses for my sin far too easily; often without even realizing it. Anger, bitterness, self-pity, spending too much time on my phone… whatever it is. The very thing that’s hurting me and making my life harder is the very thing I don’t want to let go of. It begins to affect other things, too. I become more critical of and less gracious toward others, I become increasingly self-centered and discontent, I feel the joy draining from me and leaving a sense of “blah-ness” in its place.
When God opens my eyes to the sin that’s causing harm to myself and others, I have a choice. I can continue to hug it to myself and allow it’s poisonous tendrils to keep wreaking havoc, or I can confess the sin and turn away from it. The Greek word used for repent in Scripture means simply “to change one’s mind.”1 And it’s because of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection that I have the ability to do just that.
Repentance is an incredible gift Believers have been given through Jesus. Apart from Him, it’s impossible to be free of sin – eternally and hopelessly stuck in it. Jesus died to give us the gift of freedom from sin! Freedom for all eternity, and the ability for that freedom to begin now. Although we’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, we can be made more and more into the image of Jesus today and every day until we see Him face-to-face as we allow His Spirit to transform us (Colossians 3:10). We can live in the incredible, joyful reality that comes from being set free from the power of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
What a tragedy it is when this gift is spurned – when we as followers of Jesus cling to the very sin that He died to free us from. I don’t know about you, but I know one thing that often tries to keep me from repenting of sin is pride. I don’t want to admit I’m wrong. In my flesh I don’t want to acknowledge that I have faults and weaknesses. But it’s in humbling myself, acknowledging my sin and allowing the searing light of the gospel to expose and transform it it that brings freedom, joy, rest, and peace in the only place they can truly be found: in Jesus.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
God is so gracious and patient. He continues to pursue us, to convict us for the sake of the indescribable joy of becoming more and more like Him. He forgives us over and over again, even after thousands of failures, rebellion, and blind spots. And the more we get to know Him – experiencing for ourselves the wonder of His love on ever-deepening levels – the more quickly we want to be free of anything that would keep us from experiencing intimacy with Him.
Martin Luther said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”2 Repentance sets Christians apart. It truly is a gift we’ve been given to be able to turn from our sin by God’s empowering grace. And it’s one I want to fully and joyfully embrace until the day I see Jesus face-to-face.