About three weeks ago I saw my internist for a six-month checkup. Two days before the visit, I returned from a ten-day vacation trip during which I had eaten anything and everything I wanted to eat. At the same time, I made no trips to the gym for exercise. So, when the doctor talked about drawing blood testing, I asked if we could wait a couple of weeks. [Another issue was that I had run out of my cholesterol medicine the week before I left for the trip.] I figured that getting back on all my meds, watching what I ate, and exercising would get “my numbers” back to where they should be. So this past Tuesday — before Thanksgiving — I went in for blood work and was pleased to find “decent” numbers.
I knew what I needed to do — I did it — and I was happy and my doctor was pleased.
I knew what I needed to do —- to get things back into line.
When we hear the word REPENT — in the same way — we know what we need to do. We know what we need to do to get things on course, into line. The ADVENT call to repent is a reminder that we really do know what we need to do — it is written in our hearts and part of our spirit — we know what is good for us and what is harmful for us and to us. We know.
Repentance is not about punishment. It is not about being harsh to ourselves. Repentance is about doing the good that is good for us so that we can know the peace, the joy, the “good health” for which God was born to give us.
Let me offer 4 R’s for repentance:
REFLECTION –I did not have to spend much time thinking to know that testing blood following vacation or after Thanksgiving would not be helpful. The history was right there before me. To really know from what we need to turn away —- and to what we must turn, we might need to get quiet, think, reflect — under the influence of prayer — in order to really know the area where the grace of repentance needs to work. Where have I strayed? What habits, preoccupations, “stinkin-thinkin”, or secrets are brining darkness into my life.
The hearts that are ready will be the ones who receive the Lord Jesus. The minds that have been opened are ready to be enlightened.
RENEWAL – we next need to renew our commitment to follow the Lord. After reflection, we need to act. After thinking, we need to resolve to work. After praying, we need to energetically state what we believe and focus our minds and hearts on living out our beliefs.
REALISM –Repentance can be short-lived if perfection is our goal. Repentance can be shallow when we resolve to go from point 1 to point 4 without taking steps 2 and 3. Yes, repentance can be dramatic —- but for most of us, it comes over a period of time. There may be a misstep or two along the road.
REFRESHMENT – Believing that repentance is good for us, we come to know the “fruit” or the result of repentance when we take the first step. We feel good about ourselves and we feel good about life. A weight is taken off our shoulders and new life begins. We laugh sincerely. Darkness is lifted.
Pretending to repent is like painting over a rotten board. It looks a little better, but the board is still rotten. There is no strength in the board to add weight, to build on. For some, repentance may mean tearing out an entire board and replacing it. For most of us, means scraping or making a minor patch.
Let us stand in the light of the Lord. Let every heart prepare him room. Let’s reject what is harmful and embrace what gives life. We know what we need to do.