A Deeper Turning

Repentance: (n) to reorient away from sin and toward God; effective for kingdom entrance and daily maintenance of spiritual vitality

Last January, God began working on me in the area of repentance. He gently pointed out that I had no idea what it was meant to be, how I was dismissing one of the greatest gifts of the gospel. I’m pleased to announce to you all that, after a year of hard work, I have now arrived. I’m awesome at repentance and have no more need of it.

Pfft. Right.

Honestly, my hope is that I just stink less and less at repentance until I enter glory. I’d love to get so practiced at turning my eyes back to the Lord and hollering for help that it’s second nature, but even in that, do you see the issue? (Hint: I want to not need help in needing help.) This self-sufficiency issue runs deep, friends, and I need deep repentance for a deep problem. Some of my biggest roadblocks? Pride. Pride. Unbelief. Pride.

So God and I embarked on a journey to explore repentance. I bought myself some lovely books, grabbed a journal, and dug in. Here are a few favorite highlights to jar my spirit out of being dominated by my flesh when it comes to heart-turning:

Repentance includes putting off sin—grieving—and putting on joy—accepting God’s forgiveness through Christ’s work. Living in sin is insanity. It is about going away from God. Repentance is a return to sanity—an awakening to your desperate need for God’s mercy.

(Jack Miller)

There is nothing self-flagellating about repentance. In fact, true repentance is just the opposite: it frees us … Repentance creates space in our lives; it allows us to hear the voice of God speaking to our hearts. Through repentance we become reacquainted with our truest selves, the selves God created in His own image.

(Kimberlee Conway Ireton)

If we forget [the sins left uncovered after we’ve explained the extenuating circumstances], we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses.

(C.S. Lewis)

Jesus is the Author and Power of repentance.

(Sylvia Gunter)

We will never experience the freedom that is ours in Christ if we ignore our sin and refuse to repent. The cross proves that it is safe to acknowledge our failings—for there we see the incredible love of the Father for us! Only a lifestyle of continual repentance (seeing and naming our sin and turning our backs on it) and belief (claiming the surety of love and acceptance that we have with the Father) will lead us into a life of joyful and loving obedience. Only repentance and belief break the chains of the fear of failure and set us free.

(Abby Ross Hutto)

The head is a great starting point for me, but it also helps to get the hands involved (and the heart typically straggles along behind). So I spoke with a gospel coach about my turning aversion, and she recommended that I creatively illustrate the beauty of repentance. With Lent approaching, I decided to break the project up into 40 days. This has aided in processing better and longer and deeper, along with fighting against the ever-present perfectionism monster. So far, here’s what I’ve learned about repentance from the assignment:

1. It’s a loooooong exercise made up of consistent short sprints rather than one major marathon you can walk away from at the end and be done with.

2. It’s a mixture of death and resurrection, grief and celebration.

3. It doesn’t always end up looking like you thought it would.

4. There’s so much room for error—it’s a forgiving creative endeavor, kind of dummy proof (thank goodness!).

5. Repentance can morph form according to your mood and environment.

6. If you just show up, half the battle is won.

7. It’s a raw, personal expression of the depths of who you are—pretending works against you.

8. There is no darkness light can’t penetrate.

9. You think the designs are unique, but stepping back, it’s pretty easy to find themes and patterns.

10. Ugly is better than nothing.

11. Though it’s tempting to congratulate yourself (on art or repentance), it doesn’t take long to remember that it was really God working in you.

12. You walk away with dirtier hands and a lighter heart.

13. It gets easier with practice—making it a daily habit takes the weight of “Should I? Shouldn’t I?” away because you know, at 2:30 every afternoon, you’ll be sitting there ready to try again.

My journey of repentance has been awkward, ungainly, halting, and somewhat humorous. The only grace apparent is that of the Lord, and His patience with me has proven profound. There’s so much left to learn, and even more to do, but this week, my heart feels at home. The dark is closing in here between the palm branches and the rough-hewn beams. We’re hurtling toward the cross, and beyond that, the abandoned tomb. Repentance is the quickest way to get from here to there; want to come along?

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