The Turning Point
Lent is a season of repentance as much as it is anything else. And by repentance, I mean the way that the Bible speaks of it, probably not what we've made of it in the Church.
Most of us have been taught that repentance is essentially confession followed by contrition. We admit that we have done wrong, and we ask God (and/or someone we've wronged) for forgiveness.
But in Scripture, we find that repentance is so much more than mere confession/contrition. In fact, the Hebrew word for repentance is tshuva, which literally means "return."
Think of it this way. In the general sense that we typically think of repentance there's not necessarily a change of direction, but in the ancient Hebrew understanding of repentance, there's an about-face.
I've been thinking about this a lot because in my church our Lenten theme is "Return to Me," which is directly connected to this concept.
Repentance is a return to faithfulness---a turning around from the direction that you're headed because the path you're on is leading you farther away from your best and truest life.
But there's a moment in the turning when we are often wracked with guilt, shame, and no small amount of self-flagellation as we confront what we naturally may see as failure, mistakes, or poor decisions.
That moment is "the moment before the moment," to coin a phrase I've used in a sermon or two. It's the moment before we take our next step either to return to faithfulness or keep on moving in the direction we've chosen.
And that moment can last a long time for some of us especially if we are struggling to relinquish control of our destiny to God, and go back the way we came.
I recently read a wonderful quote from author Bob Goff that is super instructive for that moment before the moment. He writes:
I think God uses our failures to disarm our pride. [God] meets us in the wreckage, and [God] makes us more humble.
Let me paint a picture of this to illustrate it further.
It's as if you are standing on the side of the road that you've been traveling, staring at the car you were driving, which is now crashed into a tree. There's no one around, and you know that if you want to get help, you might have to start walking, but you aren't sure which way.
Suddenly a car appears in the distance, and as it gets closer you see that it's a well-worn Jeep Wrangler with the license plate GRACE-1 on the front bumper. The driver rolls down the window, and you can't really get a good look at them because it feels like the sun is in your eyes.
"Need a lift?" the driver asks. "I'm heading that way, though." The driver's thumb motions in the direction you were driving away from.
So, do you swallow your pride, accept the ride and go back the way you came? Or do you say, "Thanks, but I'm probably going to just stay here and wait for a ride in the other direction... either that or I'll start walking."
That's the moment before the moment. The moment when we can discover the true meaning of repentance, or we choose something else.
If you find yourself standing on the side of the road, surveying your wreckage today, take heart. Help will come, and you can find your way if you are willing to surrender your pride and trust that the way back leads to home.
May it be so and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.