Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Repenting of my repentance

I am a mom of three boys. I know this to be true: Clothes get dirty. We are hopelessly attracted to dirt and puddles, chocolate and jam. We spill milk; we get bloody noses. From morning to night, I take off, I wash, I put on. Repeat. The laundry basket is never empty.

The fullness of the laundry basket reminds me of the fullness of grace (and how I should not procrastinate). The mundane task of changing and washing points me to the ceaseless and necessary work of repentance.

Christ will one day clothe his Bride with fine linen, bright and pure (Revelation 19:8). On this side of eternity, however, my linen is never white. Even my tiniest sacrifices, moments of selflessness, are drenched with selfish and prideful thoughts. In the words of the Puritans, “my best prayers are stained with sin; my penitential tears are so much impurity… I need to repent of my repentance; I need my tears to be washed” (The Valley of Vision, 136-137).

When I lack the words to pray, I lean heavily on the words of men and women who walked before me. I return to this prayer again and again. Written during a screen-less time, the prayers of the Puritans are steeped in word pictures. This one is soaked in the imagery of rags and robes, reminding me that Christ is my best robe, my perfect covering.

O God of Grace,
You have imputed my sin to my substitute,
and have imputed his righteousness to my soul,
clothing me with a bridegroom's robe,
decking me with jewels of holiness.

But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;
my best prayers are stained with sin;
my penitential tears are so much impurity;
my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin;
my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.

I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
no loom to weave my own righteousness;
I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,
and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
for you always justify the ungodly;
I am always going into the far country,
and always returning home as a prodigal,
always saying, "Father, forgive me,"
and you are always bringing forth the best robe.

Every morning let me wear it,
every evening return in it,
go out to the day's work in it,
be married in it,
be wound in death in it,
stand before the great white throne in it,
enter heaven in it shining as the sun.
Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace.

The Valley of Vision, 136-137.