The Long Repentance
It’s a long drive to the grocery store from my house. Yes, I live in the land of the Walmart Home Office and World Headquarters, but the closest Wally to my house is 6 miles away. I know. It’s inexplicable. Not only is it a long drive, it’s one of those stop-and-go varieties that’s enough to make you lose your mind before it’s over, and then you remember that you have to turn around and do it all again. Sigh.
Do you all remember a while back I talked about being mastered? Well, part of learning to surrender to the true and proper Master involves repentance. I always thought repentance was something you did once and for all. Like resolving to never, ever, ever again eat a Double Stuffed Oreo cookie…and really not ever, ever doing it again. (Can you imagine?) But what I’m discovering in this journey toward being surrendered to the Lord is that repentance is like that trip to – and from – the grocery store. It’s a long road that requires frequent stops and lane changes as you slug your way toward the destination. Sometimes when you find yourself finally…finally…where you were headed, you realize that you left your list at home and you have to turn around and trudge back the way you came and start again.
This walk (or drive – it seems to be a continuing theme) with Jesus just keeps getting more perplexing, more fluid, less check-it-off-your-list-ish, less controllable, less about me. I find myself at a loss for words of wisdom for you. For myself. For anyone. And I find myself more and more in constant conversation with this Master who would rule me in the unique way that is individual to my particular brand of crazy. We may all be on the same road headed in generally the same direction, but we’re driving in different vehicles of various states of disrepair as drivers in various states of distraction. You may make some green lights…running right past caution to an open road ahead… while I have to slow down and stop. I may have to turn around on this particular trip while you’re already in the checkout lane with the People of Walmart. It just isn’t the same for each of us.
“What on earth is she rambling on about?” you may be asking yourself. In my desire to have my "stomach" Mastered, the long repentance is like this. I’ve eaten a piece of toast with peanut butter for breakfast. I’ve made it to lunch without a snack that my body does not need. I had a healthy salad for lunch and feel quite satisfied. I’m hungry before dinner. I want a snack. I head to the pantry without thinking. Stop light. I hear the Lord say, “Melissa. Do you really need that? How about a tall glass of water?” Yes, Lord. Dinner comes and I enjoy a full meal. I am content. And yet…I find myself standing in front of the pantry door again. Stop light. I hear the Lord say, “Melissa. Is your stomach your god that you must obey it? Is your imagined appetite ruling you? Will you surrender to it, answering its demands, or will you trust that my grace is sufficient for you?” Sometimes it goes like this, “Girl!? Are you gonna die if you don’t eat 10 minutes before bedtime? I didn’t think so. Go wash your face!” This is my version of the long repentance. And it goes on every day. Day after day. Sometimes moment by moment. And it’s hard. So hard that sometimes I find myself on Pinterest for much longer than is proper or balanced just to get from one meal to the next. That too will have to be Mastered, but He is kind in the offering. For now.
Honestly, sometimes I don’t even hear Him honking His horn and I blow right through the red light in my clueless determination to make it to those pretzels. (And then I get middle-of-the-night heartburn repentance!!) Sometimes I just run the red light because I darn-well choose to. Sometimes we stand at the pantry door for long minutes discussing the issue, me defending and negotiating, He listening and nodding. I am free to choose. I am free to enjoy what is necesarry and balanced. And I am free to repent from what is not. Again. In shame. In weakness. In grace. In loving kindness. In the growing awareness of how very needy I am for His…everything.
I want to tell you, though, that I have seen the rewards of stop-light repentance, and of being mastered by Truth and Love. I’ve lost 20 lbs. since deciding that I would not be ruled by my stomach. (All glory to God!) I emphasize deciding because of its utter foolish pride fullness as if I could somehow even understand the sin of my behavior if He had not shown it to me. I have been humbled in this…endeavor…like I have never been before. Frankly, even as I write this my face is burning with the humiliation of the things my gentle Master has revealed to me, and even more from the things I know remain hidden; I’m am far more foolish and deceived than even I can believe until He shows me. And I tremble, lest you should ask me for my diet plan. That is too small a request. It is an adventure in missing the point. There is no formula for being mastered except to say that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Being mastered is not a plan…it is brokenness. It is a hobbling repentance that stops and starts and stops and starts again under the direction of the Master who knows you. It never ends. There is no finish line as long as you draw breath. There are no check-lists. You don’t get to proclaim the thing done. You simply learn to live on the road of the long repentance, which will, eventually, bring you home.
The greater part of me wants to leave you with that last thought, but it is not the last word on this subject because there is JOY unimagined when you recognize your shackles and ask the Lord to show you how to live free of them. I didn’t say it was a pleasure. I said there is JOY. That is entirely different. Imperatively different. Eternally different. I have begun asking the Lord to Master my mouth, and I can tell you without hesitation, that I can’t even get out of my driveway on this one. It seems an impossible journey, and it’s gonna be rough on my brakes! But I have seen and tasted that He is good, and I have a craving for His voice and a hunger to experience His presence and the joy of His provision. And so…”I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. (Philippians 3:12b)
So...I'll see you at the stoplights? (In my head I'm hearing, "Smile and wave boys. Smile and wave." Extra points if you understand that!)
“…for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now … Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Phil. 1:19-21a.