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The Gift of Repentance

Posted on July 21, 2014 at 9:00 AM

One of my favorite verses in the bible is Isaiah 30:15 because it tells me the truth about myself.


“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”


It’s those last seven words that describe me to a tee. I like the idea of repentance. I just don’t like doing it.


The word repentance literally means “to turn around.” In his book, The Wounded Heart, Dan Allender describes repentance as a “profound internal shift in the perceived source of life.” To repent means I lean into grace while turning away from the things that have distracted my heart from the source of grace: Jesus Christ. It means truly resting in His finished work on the cross.


Easier said than done.


As I write this I am really struggling.


How can I write about something I am not any good at? How can I describe something I am not really familiar with? How can I explain something I am just beginning to understand? My day to day life exposes that I don’t know much about repentance.


But I do know that repentance looks different from what we think it looks like. Sometimes repentance is loud and messy, and sometimes it is just a quiet letting go. I remember one night in particular when God got my attention. David (my husband) was out of town, and I was at the end of a long week of caring for our three kids by myself. We were muddling through the bedtime routine. At the time our youngest son, Kyle, who was three years old, asked for a cup of water; when I brought it to him he complained that the cup was the wrong color…


Let the games begin!


Too weary to fight, I dumped the water into a different cup and returned to his room. He took one look in the cup and asked for more ice. I begrudgingly left and returned with more ice. He then--sweetly--informed me that there was too much ice and now the drink was too cold. Time to start over. This interaction continued for quite awhile. When he was finally satisfied and he was tucked into bed, I collapsed on my bed, exhausted, and murmured, “I quit.”


Immediately in my heart I heard a response: “You quit too late.” At that moment I knew God was talking about more than that bedtime fiasco. He was showing me how independent and stubborn I am. How I cling to my plan until it absolutely doesn’t work and then I cry out to Him. It was clear. My problem is that I quit too late. Always.


After that I felt like God nudging me to begin each day with a new phrase running through my head. “I quit, Lord; I can’t do this without you.” This was a huge turning point and a baby step in the direction of learning to live a life of dependence on Him.


That was years ago. That three year old is now about to graduate from high school. Time flies, but the issues in my heart are still the same. For me, my “perceived source of life” will always be that which puts me in control and keeps me from leaning on God. I cling to control and, consequently, my repentance is typically going to involve letting go and leaning on Him.


When all is said and done, repentance is a work of the Spirit. It’s a gift He gives to us to restore our relationship with Him and bring healing. It’s not something we produce as a way to manage our sin or a tool we wield to fix ourselves. It’s a radical internal shift, caused by the Holy Spirit, which sets us on a different path.


Repentance is impossible without surrender, without the “I quit.” Getting to that place of complete dependence and need will make you feel like you are dying. It will smell like death. Because it is. Repentance is a dying to self. The uncurling of your fingers from trying to squeeze one more drop out of what you thought would bring you life will feel like it will undo you.


But it won’t.


Repentance reminds me who God is and how much He loves me. It takes me to the Cross, straight into the arms of Jesus, and that is where the party begins; this is what the prodigal son experienced when he returned home, and it’s the same thing He invites us to experience daily. I am forgiven, restored, and loved! His kindness leads us to repentance and it is a sweet gift indeed!



Taken from Ruth’s book: Craving Grace-Experience the Richness of the Gospel and the website is: http://www.cravinggrace.org/

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