Hardships - Blog

I Can't Repent

As plates were passed, I was in the restroom having it out with God.

While God’s people celebrated communion, I wept. Words like “unworthy manner” and “unresolved sin” cycled through my mind.

I was probably being a bit dramatic, skipping out on communion. But I have long been an obsessive-compulsive repenter. I strategize and twist my brain in an attempt to feel penitent, remorseful or guilty.

But I realized I’ve had it all backwards. Author and pastor Tim Keller says that Jesus, in the story of the prodigal, reveals a God who’s not waiting for me to get repentance right.

Like in the story, do I believe in a God who waits by the roadside for me, who runs to me and falls on me with joyful kisses and tears?

About a month back, my 6-year-old dictated to his sister this message in my journal, “God loves Dad so much that he will cry for your sin.” Beside it he drew broken hearts and doodles.

I know I’m reading into my son’s message for me, but in a real sense God did cry for our sin. I know I love my son a lot, but what did God the Father feel when Jesus wept in the Garden of Gethsemane?

The Father-Son duo, which was intimately intertwined from before time, was about to be ripped apart.

What tears did the Father weep as he turned his back on the cross and heard his Son crying, “Daddy, Daddy, why have you forsaken me?”

And so why do we sometimes struggle with repentance? There is a helplessness to our condition after the fall. But that’s not strong enough. We are violently opposed to God’s rule.

So no amount of hand-wringing or plotting on my part is going to bring about a repentant heart.

Rather Tim Keller describes repentance as waking up, or coming to your senses. Even the prodigal, who came to his senses, did so half-heartedly. He had no idea how his Father was eagerly awaiting his return.

I picture God as empathetic with me in my attempts to repent, but I believe he puts his arm around my shoulder and lifts my chin to look at his full love displayed, His glory, on the cross.

Keller says, “That an infinitely happy being would tear his life apart for us. If you even get a glimpse of that, it will heal the diseases of your soul.”

The more God wakes me up to this reality, the more I want to repent.

So next time I feel forsaken, that God is distant, doesn’t care and that I’m not his kid because of my constant sinning, I need to remember this: my Daddy calls me to sprint to his table. He calls me in for dinner.

There I see Daddy, beaming over his kids, home, together. A sister passes me wine and bread telling me to eat and be healed.

I eat a little, lean back and watch. There’s so much joy and anticipation here. It’s going to be a good meal.

Philip Long

writes for Cru's publications as a missionary journalist. He earned a master’s degree in Christian studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Philip balances family life along with bike riding, drawing and whittling toy cars. Contact him at Philip.Long@cru.org.

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