A Three Year Old’s Grasp on Repentance

grace-repentance Being the father of a toddler and a new born comes with its challenges but it is an amazing blessing. A few mornings ago the Lord filled my heart with gratefulness and conviction as I interacted with our three year old. It’s incredible how much the Lord speaks to me through his young life. Here’s what happened:

After coming home from work a few days ago it was obvious that our newborn had kept my wife up all night long. So, I decided to get my three year old son out of bed and go through the morning routine with him. Just for the record, when I walk through the front door after third shift I feel more like a zombie than a living human being; but, my son needed to eat breakfast, and my wife needed sleep, so I bit the bullet and just stayed up. After scarfing down some toast and watching an episode of Dragon Tales my son decided that it was time to play with his Star Wars toys. Naturally, he sees dad laying on the couch and wants me to join in the fun.

Now, for those of you who think I’m a super hero for staying up allow me to reveal my humanity: I refused to play with him for about 45 minutes all the while apologizing for my lack of interest. My son, being the trooper that he is, endured my refusal but would continue to gauge my interest by repeatedly asking me if I’d play. Still, much to my son’s chagrin, I opted for the couch. Eventually, my wife got up. While she was getting ready to take over I realized that my attitude was less than desirable. So, I got up and apologized to my son for not playing with him and for being a bit grouchy. To this my son replied: “It’s okay daddy, you can still play with me a little bit now.”  After chuckling I thought: “wow, my son understands repentance better than I do. If I’m really sorry then I’ll pick up one of his Star Wars guys and start playing.”

You see, despite my sorry feelings I didn’t actually demonstrate any true desire to reverse the negative behavior until I decided to act. Like me, most people will say they’re “sorry” for sinful behavior while not making much movement toward genuine repentance. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we’re reminded that the path to true repentance isn’t merely feeling sorry, dwelling on our bad behavior, and looking for people to excuse our sin. Rather, true repentance is realized when we demonstrate dependence upon God for forgiveness and  take steps aimed at changing sinful behavior. Of course, true change can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit but we certainly have a part to play. As I’m finding, a fundamentally unrepentant attitude can seriously under mind any chance of having a vibrant relationship with God whereby others are blessed to be around us.

So, all that to say, I went to bed that morning feeling both proud of my son for his insight while also feeling rather convicted. As I fell asleep I couldn’t quit asking myself: “Could repentance be more than what I’ve convinced myself it is? What if true repentance has nothing to do with my feelings and words but everything to do with my actions?” Let’s all remember, that our relationships with God and others will, most definitely, be shaped by how repentant we truly are.

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“I will set out and go to my father….”

The path of repentance begins in a moment of gracious enlightenment. Jesus’ parable of the Lost Son reveals utter blindness giving way to understanding the fruits of sin. The lost son did not easily realize that he was lost at first. Even though he was destitute it took pig slop to open his eyes.

By God’s mercy I hope that the Heavenly Father sticks my nose in the pig trough every time I wander. This is what we all need because only there, face-to-face with the pig slop, will we understand the stupidity of our sin. I pray we don’t stop there though–we must return to our Father. He longs to restore us to himself and renew our status as his children.

“Search me, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24