Monday, December 1, 2014

Love brings me home

Just the other day, I was out for a run by myself. It was so cold that I could not feel my face. I was running against the freezing wind, and the wind was winning. I could barely keep my eyes open. Gusts of wind were pushing me to the left and then the right. Keep running, I told myself, think of the boys. They must be starving! (They were fine.) They must be crying! (They were playing games with daddy.) It may sound silly now, but it worked, somehow.

Love got me home.

When the grandparents visited, Hans invited me to run with him; I was not too sure about the idea. Even at his slow pace, I was barely keeping up. Although I was behind him most of the way, being with him was nice. I kept my eyes on his broad shoulders, the shoulders that bore our three sons. I smiled (in my heart, my face was showing something else). On our last stretch, he ran next me and said, "Finish strong! Try to keep up with me." And then, he ran even faster. If I had breath to spare, I would have laughed out loud — at myself. But, I pressed on.

Love got me home, again.

If I could invite Martin Luther over for a dinner party in heaven, I would ask him why he chose to make repentance the first of his Ninety-Five Theses, the document that marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Retrospectively, it was quite fitting that Luther's call for reform began with a call to repent.

All of life is repentance. Every single second. Not just the occasional "sorry" or "please forgive me" or "the U-turns." Our life's journey in its entirety is a returning, a returning to Garden. Not the Garden that once was, but the Garden that will be.

Repentance is not a one-time thing; repentance is an one-life thing.

I used to think that it was guilt that drove me to repent. If I could just muster up enough guilt about my wrong-doings, perhaps I would be able to change, perhaps my contrition would be more true and sincere, perhaps it would make me more worthy of forgiveness. Guilt, however, can do none of these. My guilt about eating too much cake might help me see my need to exercise, but my guilt is not enough to get me home. My guilt does no good on an icy day when the wind is beating on my face while I gasp for air.

But love,
love brings me home.

No, not my love for God, but his love for me. His never-stopping, always pursuing, never-giving up, always forgiving, forever love. Hunger makes me long for home. Guilt helps me see that I am wrong, I need his forgiveness. But love waits for me.

My Father saw me and had compassion on me. He ran to me. He brought me home. He sent his Son to pay the penalty of my sin. Jesus Christ was crucified in my place.

Repentance is our response to God's love. Repentance is choosing to believe that his steadfast love is better — than whatever else we look to for happiness. Repentance is choosing him, because he gave himself to us.

This is how we repent: We keep our eyes on the shoulders that bore our cross, and we run home to our Father who loves us with an everlasting love. We repent by believing the prayer of David, "Your steadfast love is better."

Your steadfast love is better than the number on the scale.
Your steadfast love is better than the number in the bank.
Your steadfast love is better than a clean and beautiful home.
Your steadfast love is better than a fulfilling career.
Your steadfast love is better than infatuations.
Your steadfast love is better than friendships.
Your steadfast love is better than marriage.
Your steadfast love is better than children.

Jesus said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away... If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away." Our right eye and our right hand are supreme examples of God's good and useful gifts. Even so, God's steadfast love is better.

Your steadfast love is better than my dreams.
Your steadfast love is better than my pride.
Your steadfast love is better than my happiness.

Because your steadfast love is better is better than life, my lips will praise you. (Ps 63:3)

Your steadfast love brings me home.

Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.
- Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, 21-22.


Teyen Chou said...

Thank you so much for this post. I really, really needed to read this. It's just the whole part of it is not guilt that drives us to repentance, but His love. Too many times have I come before Him to repent and end up confused on if I should be feeling guilty enough to repent more "passionately" when I wasn't. Now I wonder what even drove me to my knees during those times: was it out of the feeling of requirement or was it because I truly wanted to, but I just had the wrong motive and idea?
Either way, thank you. Made me see and reflect some parts of me.

Irene Sun said...

Praise be to the Lord that he loves us and welcomes us and listens even to our imperfect prayers. May we continue to grow in our understanding of his steadfast love. Teyen, thank you for reading and commenting. I am so encouraged whenever I hear from you! <3

E! said...

"better than life" brings me home when i crawl away in search of "life"

praise God who even when he gives us up to our own resistance and rebellion, does not give up on us.

(p.s. i hate running, and am terrible at it)

Irene Sun said...

Praise be to God indeed, he certainly does not give up on his children. I am no good at running as well. My tactic usually involve hiding, pretending, ignoring, lame things like that (get it, lame?). So nice to crawl with you. =)

E! said...

I meant physically. Like jogging. Terrible. I need to be chasing a ball/frisbee. Or being chased. I will happily bike. But running just slays me, hahah.