Repent and Start Over
Last Sunday morning I told a story about spilling coffee on my son. I was a new parent with this breathtaking, precious child, and I had hurt him. That day I was horrified with myself. I wish it were the last time I had done something stupid as a parent, but it was just the beginning of all the goof-ups, lost tempers, forgotten lunches, miss-matched socks, unreasonable expectations, and some (okay, plenty of) yelling. And my oldest is nine, so there will be more ways to mess up as my kids approach adolescence. I will mess up in ways that I haven’t even imagined yet. I have lots more “I’m sorry”s to say.
When I told this story to the children on Sunday, my point was that we take care of those who have less power or control or strength. I was the mother, so my job was to take care of that baby. Today I bring you this story to talk to you, grown-ups. Yes, our job is to love and tend to our children. But we will fail again and again. We will lose our tempers. We will react selfishly, or out of fear, or embarrassment. We will have a harsh answer when a kind word would suffice. We will judge our children’s friends unfairly, or compare our children to others. We will leave hot coffee on a table within reach of a crawling ten-month-old baby.
But In the awareness of our collective propensity to fail, we find solace in knowing that no one has ever done it all right. We do what we can with the resources we have and we commit ourselves to growing ever more loving, but there will always be more “I’m sorry”s to say. And that’s the way it works.
Jesus brought a message of repentance when he first stepped onto the public scene in Israel. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This was not a voice of condemnation. This was good news. And if you have ever caused pain to a loved one, this is a salvation message. The burden of shame and guilt is too much to bear, but Jesus offers this simple expression, “Repent.” Just saying it out loud helps.
"God, I yelled. I yelled AGAIN. I lost my temper and I hated what I saw in my child’s eyes."
And in repentance, Jesus is not calling us to hate ourselves, to grovel, to roll in the muck of our guilt and feel bad. He calls us to repent, to turn it around.
"God, your mercies are new every morning. I will stand up and try again. Your kingdom is here in me."
And for a grown-up who makes fails regularly, that is good news.