By KRISTAN DOOLEY
I sometimes overthink repentance. I hear the word repent and imagine a dramatic scene with sackcloth, ashes, weeping and runny mascara. And although it’s healthy to experience intense moments of emotional repentance and sorrow over the sin that keeps me from God’s perfect plan, I also must grow in my ability to simply admit I’m going the wrong direction, turn around and follow God.
AJ Swoboday says, “Repentance does not….bring us closer to God. Rather, repentance is a byproduct of being drawn close to God.” I like that. It reminds my heart it’s not about the runny mascara; it’s about reaching to be closer to the God I love. It reminds me that God is always present and always at work, and His very favorite part of His work is being with me.
What that means is you and I always have an open invitation to join Him in His work. He is drawing us in. Once we find Him, we simply have to face Him. For me, that sometimes involves repentance. It means owning up to the reality that what I am doing isn’t what God is doing, so I need to drop it, turn around and join Him again in His work.
I recently had an opportunity to experience this first-hand. Addilyn, my youngest, has grown up playing soccer. As a former soccer player myself, watching her play is one of my favorite things. As a pastor and discipleship coach, I spend a lot of time making disciples and to be honest, it’s sometimes nice to sit on the sidelines of a soccer game and not think about anything but the game itself. One cold day last fall, sitting on the side lines bundled up under my blanket, I remember sensing the Father. My heart felt moved to reach out to the moms of Addilyn’s soccer team and offer to take them through my discipleship coaching material free of charge.
My heart felt moved, but my feelings didn’t. What makes me think they want to do that?, I thought. These ladies don’t even know what I do; why would they trust me to invest in them in such a way? What if they tell me no? We are new to the team and we hardly even know them. Maybe I should wait till next season? I had a hundred different thoughts running through my mind that invited me to overstay my time on this side of repentance for months. I even wrote an email inviting the moms into a discipleship group only to let it sit in my drafts for weeks, all because I was afraid to put myself out there and join where I sensed the Father at work.
I wasn’t doing anything wrong by not discipling these women (my life is full of investing in people!), but my lack of repentance (turning around) kept me from an opportunity to join my Father more fully. True repentance takes you and I away from ourselves and centers us with Him, which is where we were created to be so we could thrive in life.
Repentance keeps me connected; it enables me to stay in step and empowered to work from a right posture. Walking up the steps to my office it hit me: I didn’t have to send this email and offer to disciple these ladies–I got to. It wasn’t about what it was going to cost me to put myself out there; it was about what I gained the moment I did it.
With new insight it suddenly wasn’t hard to turn around and send the email. The moment I turned around (repented) and walked in a new direction with the Father, I had all I needed and all my soul longed for. That was four months ago and let me tell you, I’ve met with nine women for eight Sunday evening sessions since the email went out, and it’s been amazing! God is doing a good work and repentance enabled me to be a part of it.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT God’s best is never for His people to live in fear and oppression; we were created to live in freedom. If you want to find the more what God has for you, it might involve an about-face. Think about it for a second. Do you sense His presence working where you are? Are you seeing the evidence of Him? Are you feasting on the fruit of the Spirit? If you’re not, might you have an invitation to repent and join Him in His work?
I had to turn away from my fear of being rejected by my new soccer friends and turn toward the work God was doing. After the fact, I was really glad I did. Is there something you need to turn from? Someone you need to turn toward? Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 and make a decision to join God in the work He is calling you to.
PRAYER Father, thank You for Your presence, and Your steady invitation to me to come and join You in Your work. Open my eyes to see where You are, and empower my feet to join You, even when I’m fearful. May I be someone who walks in repentance daily. Amen.