Repentance is hard. When I was asked to respond to this week’s devotional I thought, “No problem. This will be easy.” And then, I started writing. Two weeks have gone by and I’m now on my third box of Girl Scout cookies and 50,000th version* of a response. Why is repentance so hard? I’ve decided it’s because it means change.
Change is like gas station sushi - it sounds good until you actually have it**. There are a lot of people that do not like change. “Why do things have to change?” they ask, “Let’s just keep them the way they are.” But, change is sometimes good. For example, an upward change in my paycheck would be a welcome change. Also, some people need to change. Wow, do some people need to change! Mark Twain said, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” and repentance sure would be easier if everyone else would change. If a person is hard to love, it’s most definitely their fault. I could love them if they would change. I wouldn't need to avoid some people if they’d just change...Right?
If we take our cue for repentance from others, we’re going to be waiting a while. We’re all guilty of expecting other people to change. I know I am. The devotional points out that, in situations like this, we need to change our lens and view people through God’s lens. We are so worried about other people that we don’t see our need to change. Like the rich man in the parable, we focus on ourselves and we forget that we need might be the one who needs to change. We wear our comfortable lenses and those skew our vision. That’s what makes repentance hard. Repentance requires us to change our lens, and we can’t just order that with one-day shipping with AmazonPrime.
When I think about repentance, and how it doesn't just happen, I’m reminded of a sketch where Bob Newhart reprised his role as a psychologist (watch it here). Newhart is helping a woman overcome her fear of small spaces and says he will cure her in five minutes. The woman tells her problems and Newhart is ready to give his advice. It’s just two words, he tells the woman, so there won’t be any need to write it down. Newhart’s advice? STOP IT! Just stop doing or being that. It sounds easy. If only repentance was this easy. Too bad we can’t just say, “REPENT!” and be done.
Repentance isn’t easy because it’s change and it’s not instant. Repentance “transforms all the dimensions of one’s life.” That’s a pretty big change that shouldn’t be taken lightly and you can’t just push a button for instant repentance. A transformation like this takes thought, desire, dedication, and certainly prayer. But, reorienting our whole being to God is a change that is worth it in the end.
*This is an estimate.
**I have never had gas station sushi. It might be good?