One of the words that freaks out many of my fellow liberal Christians and people abused by religion or even the people who qualify themselves as “spiritual but not religious” more than anything is “REPENT!!!” Sometimes I imagine myself saying it in a sermon and seeing people’s eyes bug out. They might say, “Oh crap! Here he goes getting all ‘vengeful God’ on us.” and then either run out or shut down their minds so they don’t have to hear what they think is coming. I guess the reason for this is because so many zealots of the past abused the word ‘repent’ and other words like ‘sin’ in their efforts to do mind control on people that the real flavor of those words has been lost. There are such negative connotations to those words that open minded people or people who want to appear open minded avoid them or their meanings all together and thus consequently forgo the benefit of knowing how to apply those words to their situation for their betterment, development, and expansion of their consciousness. I bet even some of you who have read my blogs before and know how I am are probably bracing yourselves. So let me drop a little glossary for you so you can know how I am using those words and one other very important word–CONFESS.
Repent: the basic definition for this word is “to turn around or turn away from”. Simply put, when you repent, you are going away from one thing and toward another. As it pertains to the injunctions in the Bible it is a prescription from turning away from evil to good, harm toward health, etc. The best representation that I can think of for this principle is the story of The Prodigal Son. That story ends with the grateful father explaining to the eldest brother that we was celebrating because his youngest son who had squandered his inheritance on partying and playing the big shot had somehow made his way home–he was once lost but was now found. The young repented. A lot of us think repenting has to do with guilt, but it really has to do with responsibility. Like I talked about in the video, the son accepted where he was–eating with pigs in a pigsty–and decided to turn away from that and toward his father’s house, even if it meant coming back as a slave rather than as a son. Of course the loving father received him as the son that he was. But consider this, the father never went after the son. He gave him what he asked for and allowed him to make his own decisions. How often do we make decisions that prove to not be in our best interest only to continue in that direction because we refuse to admit that we are lost–that we’ve gone too far in the wrong direction and that best thing for us to do is turn away from where we are headed and back toward our health?
Sin: All it means is to miss the mark. It is an archery term. If we miss the mark and don’t admit it, we will never be able to correct ourselves. If you are trying to get better at darts but you are way off, can you get better by just walking up to the bulls eye and placing the darts in there and then calling all of your friends to show them how good you are? Heck no! That doesn’t work. You can fool them, but you’ll know that you are full of it. That’s just how it is. It’s better to try and fail than is it to fail to try. So you missed the mark. So what. It doesn’t make you less of a person. I know that’s how we’ve been taught. That’s why so many of work so hard at perception management. It makes perfect sense to want to be seen as you are. But if you are trying to convince people that you are someone that not even you believe you can be or are then the pressure will tear you up eventually. We are all in a perpetual state of progress. Of course we’re going to miss the mark sometimes. Does this mean you have to go around screaming, “I’m a stinking sinner and don’t deserve God’s love?” I don’t think so. All I’m saying is own your mistakes so you can learn from them. I fail daily and am nowhere near where I could probably be if I concentrated more. But I’m putting myself out here so that I can keep course correcting until I get there.
Confession: The essence of confession is “acknowledgement”. Even though it carries a negative connotation with most people, it has nothing to do with guilt or innocence per se. It is basically the opposite of being in denial. But, because so many of us live in denial we experience confession negatively. It is acknowledging our denial. It is denying the presumed power of our denial in an effort to start the process of healing. And used positively, it is acknowledging that we are who we are and that we are where we are–whoever and wherever that may be–so that we can become who we want to become and go where we want to go. When we confess, we don’t necessarily have to confess to anyone else–although having someone we can trust is invaluable. What’s important is that we can confess to ourselves. My blogs are my confessions. Few people know that I struggle to put most of these out here, because I retain memories of being maligned for my unconventional views on scripture by some people I cared about at a time when I was too stressed to handle it. Although I don’t feel any guilt about my views, I often catch myself wondering what one of them might think about what I write. It’s an irrational concern and I acknowledge that. Hence me writing it anyway. However, if I denied my feelings around this, I might either be totally paralyzed when it comes to writing or out to get the people who I let get to me–people who are very likely not thinking of me anyway. This is knowing where I am.
Once we own where we are, the next step is asking where we want to be. Sometimes that is a really scary question. Perhaps that’s why we so often deny where we are–to avoid that next question. If we admit that we are not where we want to be then we must also accept that we are not doing the work to get where we want to be. Maybe we fear that if we try we may never even get there, so what is the point? Perhaps we don’t know anyone in our social and familial circles that have ever gotten there, so we don’t have examples. Perhaps we know where we want to go, but we fear that the people we want to go with us might not want to go. Whatever it is. When we admit that we are not where we want to be we are making ourselves vulnerable and we get tempted to make excuses and justifications. That creates shame or guilt for many of us and then 9 times out of 10 we fall back into denial and hopelessness and then we are basically lost again. If we let that embarrass us then we will likely resign ourselves to living in the land of the lost. We won’t call a friend, because we get too ashamed to admit that we are lost again.
People don’t be lost if you don’t have to be. Admit where you are. Don’t fear the vulnerability. There are those out here who will at least share with you how to get back on track. I write these posts because when I was lost I called out in the darkness screaming for help and no one came for a very long time. You see I was the prodigal son and the other brother too. I got myself lost on purpose because I, like the older brother, felt angry that the ones who seemed to do the worse things seemed to keep getting away with it. I also let myself get hurt because there were people who I loved in my life who I began to blame for being so fearful that they could not see me for fear that I would hurt them like someone before me once had. And then there was one person who I thought I could “save” if I could just get them to see that I loved them. When I realized there was nothing I could do I started to feel like it wasn’t fair so I decided to run away too, metaphorically speaking.
When I took off, I ran so far that I not only got myself lost, my vehicle ran out of gas, I was miles from civilization, and I didn’t have a cell phone. I had to walk back the way I came at night in the cold wearing dark clothes and a ski mask which decreased the chances of anyone seeing me or even being willing to stop if they did. The entire journey back I screamed for help I didn’t care who heard me because I knew where I was and it was not where I wanted to be. Let me tell you that once I “found myself lost”, my lost Self was found and I was humbled by how trusting and trustworthy life really can be when we surrender. It was when I learned this that the dawn broke, it started to warm up, and I started seeing signs that I was back on the road home. Soon Day Travelers started to appear and many of them let me hitch rides with them until I got to within walking distance of Home. That’s when I told myself that when I got settled back in, I woul go back down that dark road with enough resources for a return trip and leave signs and mile markers for anyone who may intentionally or unintentionally find themselves on that road. That’s what these blocks and upcoming materials and workshops are. I truly hope that they are of service to you and that if you come across someone else who can benefit from them you can share them. I do not propose that they will get you to the road you want to be ultimately want to be on. My best hope is that what I contribute will assist you in getting back to the The Rest Stop–the place where all roads converge and where you can choose the route you want to take Home.