Sunday, January 19, 2014

Waiting on Repentance


This week I communicated with two extremely wounded women. Both have been hurt. One by someone outside of the church, the other by someone in the church. My advice to both of them was pretty much the same.

Their stories are private, but I can tell  you the first woman had a crime commit against her and the man got away with it.  She was angry. She was bitter. If God was good, why did he not only let this happen, but let the man get away with it? The second woman felt the same way. Someone in the church had taken advantage of her and as a result she lost her testimony. She too wondered where God was.

Both women are unhappy. Both have trouble forming relationships. They’ve put their lives on hold waiting for justice. This is a mistake. 

All of us have been hurt by people. Some of us have had real harm done to them. I understood how these women felt. There have been times in my life that I’ve wondered where God was. I have since learned that He was there all along. He sees the harm that others do and He weeps. These things aren’t forgotten. Even if  “justice” never happens during our earthly existence, it will come in our eternal existence.

But, that wasn’t the most important point that I wanted these women to understand. I wanted them to live. I wanted them to feel joy again. I wanted them to stop waiting for someone else’s repentance. It may never come.

I’m not callous to their feelings. I have wanted people to repent before. I desperately wanted a dishonest person, who brought great harm to me and my family, to finally tell the truth and stop hiding behind their charm and deceitful nature. For a while that paralyzed me.  How could I have joy when he continues the lies? How could I trust anyone ever again? I waited and waited, hoping for his repentance.

Then one day, while feeling particularly sad I asked myself “What if he never repents?” Which was looking very likely.  Would I want to live out the rest of my life sad and afraid to engage with others? Would I let him take my future from me too? No way.

It is foolish to deny yourself a fulfilled existence waiting on someone else’s repentance. A repentance that, in the majority of circumstances, will never come. That may be fine to say, but what is the solution? The solution is simple. Find joy.  Don’t live in the darkness. This world is full of good and beauty. It’s filled with people who have remarkable potential, but just need a little boost to help them recognize that. Be that boost. Bring them hope. When you live to bring love and beauty to others, you find joy.

Let me illustrate this with a science lesson I did with my youngest children.  Pure light has all the colors of the spectrum. The colors we see are the pieces of the spectrum that get reflected back to our eyes.  The color white is a reflection of all the colors bouncing back. The color black is all the colors absorbed leaving nothing but darkness.

We took two pieces of paper, one black and one white, as well as a magnifying glass into the sun.  We started with the white paper and aimed the magnifying glass so that a small concentrated circle from the sun shined on the paper. It took a LONG time for that paper to catch fire.  In fact, they got bored and I had to promise flames would come several times to keep them attentive. As promised, eventually the white paper caught fire.

Next, we did the same thing with the black paper. Almost instantaneously the black paper caught fire. Why? Because, instead of reflecting the light, it absorbed it along with all the heat light contains.

We can do the same thing with our lives.  We can either continue to internalize all our injuries, pulling the light away and leaving nothing but darkness, or we can reflect the light and beauty around us.  Not only will we be useful and bring hope to others, but we’ll find joy in our own lives too.

One other lesson from light. Notice, when you reflect light it is harder for you to be burned. But, when you just absorb it all you are consumed in flame rather quickly.

Don’t wait on someone else’s repentance. Live. Love. Enjoy.

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