Valerie is a 42-year-old, single, Reformed Christian lady who lives in Baltimore. She doesn't remember a time
before she knew and loved Jesus, but she does remember accepting John Calvin into her heart in March of 2000.
Valerie is a member of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Annapolis.
Though her career aspiration is to be a housewife, Valerie has not yet found anyone suitable who wishes to hire
her for employment in that field (or, more properly, anyone suitable has not found her), so in the meantime she
earns her daily bread working in communications -- editing, writing, print design and website management.
This morning I awoke to find myself in a state of mind I could best describe as "cheerfully repentant." I was rather surprised at those words, because repentance is typically a frowny sort of activity, but over-the-top frowniness was exactly what I needed to repent of, and it wasn't going to work if I did it frownily. Trust me...I'd tried.
I finally seem to have gotten through a particularly nasty patch of morbid introspection. I was trying to be my own god -- a harsh, bitter, cruel deity that had to keep punishing Valerie for failing to meet her standards; a petty, fickle god who selectively chose to worry only about her own pet standards; a rebellious god who tried to usurp Yahweh's role as both lawgiver and judge. Jesus' yoke is easy, and His burden is light. I was picking up every rock I could find and bashing myself on the head with it before adding it to the load on my back. And I wanted none of His forgiveness, none of His grace. I just kept demanding of myself that I just get my act together, dammit.
The real God isn't like that with His children. He disciplines us, for sure, but not with raging, temperamental contempt. He shows us our sin, but correctively rather than accusingly. The devil accuses -- he diagnoses our sin-sickness and gloats over the prognosis because he desires our destruction. The Holy Spirit convicts -- He diagnoses our sin-sickness and prescribes the perfect cure because He desires our redemption. I was agreeing with the accuser rather than the comforter, tearing down rather than building up.
The gospel of grace is sweet. The Lord Jesus, desiring a lovely and loving bride, finds only bat-faced hellions to choose from. So he picks ungrateful, shrewish, ugly creatures -- and not just one, but a multitude who hate not only Him, but each other -- and transforms them with fierce gentleness into the beautiful elements of a gloriously unified congregation of saints fit to be His consort. I'm back to contentedly delighting in the way He wants to change me rather than trying to remake myself by some travesty of sanctification into some travesty of loveliness.
And it was all His gift. When I went to bed last night, full of misery, I could only tell Him I was tired of fighting; I couldn't stop. He softened my heart. He gave me the repentant, reposeful attitude I've been enjoying all day. He is kind and generous and kind and generous some more. I love Him. I'm tempted to dwell on how little, but that would make me take my eyes off of Him, and I don't want to. He's much better looking than I am, and I'll only get worth looking at when I've stared long enough to reflect Him fully.
That's what makes right repentance cheerful: it gets the focus off the sin and onto the Savior. It doesn't indulge in wailing and self-recrimination. It doesn't try to work itself into a frenzied self-reproach like the prophets of Baal cutting themselves to get their idol's attention, because it simply and quietly trusts God to hear and respond. It opens its hands to relinquish sin and delights to find grace extravagantly pouring through its fingers. Remorse may be strong, but mercy is stronger. Regret is brief, quickly supplanted by gratitude for His favor. When we truly repent -- truly turn from ourselves to Him, even great grief over sin turns to joy as it is overwhelmingly washed away in the deluge of His smiling love.
On March 13, 2009 8:09 AMMargaret in VAwrote... Oh good! I've been praying for you, dear! There's a lot of gold in what you wrote and though I don't seem to do much morbid introspection, I'm that kind of parent! Ouch! So, now I must go and beg for forgiveness and put my eyes on Him, too.
As I always say, these preach better than they read. But this one seems right up your alley.
On March 16, 2009 2:01 PMKevin Cassidywrote... This is beautiful, especially in this Lenten season. Praise our Lord God for bringing this to you, and praise Him again for His sharing it with us through you.
On March 16, 2009 3:12 PMSheilawrote... This reminds me much of a book you once gave me about Grace. Unfortunately, I am do not always happily repent; it humbles me and encourages to read your words.
On March 16, 2009 4:54 PMAnnette M. Heidmannwrote... "I'll only get worth looking at when I've stared long enough to reflect Him fully." Now there's a nugget. When I think of the saints whose lives and examples we celebrate throughout the church year, this seems to be their consistent orientation.
Jane -- I skimmed the sermon. Made me think of the contrast between how God views shame as a means, using it to bring us awareness our sin so we can repent, and how the devil views shame as an end, delighting in the debasement of God's image-bearers. "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces repentance without regret leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Cor. 7:10, NASB).
Kevin -- Thanks.
Sheila -- Yep...I'm still trying to learn the lessons of that book!
Nettie -- Yep...nuthin' but nuggets of the purest pyrite for my readers! ;-)
On April 13, 2009 9:25 PMKamillawrote... "I was picking up every rock I could find and bashing myself on the head with it before adding it to the load on my back. And I wanted none of His forgiveness, none of His grace. I just kept demanding of myself that I just get my act together, dammit."
Wow! Can't wait to give you a hug for this. I've been doing this so very well - but wait, you have to add peri-menopausal hormonal fluctuations on top of that. It's been quite brutal.