Thoughts on Repentance
I agree with you that repentance, or metanoia, is invitational. In the spirit of metanoia, I think Jesus invites us to view our Father, ourselves, and the world differently. It is a refreshing and renewal of the mind, which leads to a change in life. When Jesus says “Repent, and believe.” It is like he is saying stop living in disbelief and believe. Believe what?—the good news of the nearness of the kingdom of heaven. The gospel of John relentlessly expounds upon the correlation between belief and eternal life. This gospel does not use the term kingdom of heaven/God but uses eternal life. I view them as interchangeable. However, I think Jesus uses kingdom terminology with Nicodemus. John culminates his theology in John 15-17 with the ideas of abiding in Christ, friendship with God!!, and the oneness of all with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When I think of the fruits of repentance, love, peace, joy, hope, gentleness, self-control, etc. come to mind. I cannot produce these things on my own. If I try, it only produces the opposite—strained effort, frustration, worry, anxiety, fear, etc. I believe the metanoia, or change in mind, is the belief in the truth that Christ abides/dwells in me and is always inviting me further into the depths of his love and discipleship/friendship. When I am resting in this truth, when I am indeed abiding in Christ, then the fruits of love, joy, peace come forth unstrained. I am resting. The fruits are the outpouring of the intimate union of soul and God. My ego has managed for a time to get out of the way. I realize I am rambling, maybe. I think the point I am attempting to describe relates to your question are we turning toward Something or away from something. There must be Something we are turning towards before we will turn away from ourselves. And this Something must be desirable. It cannot be something that we feel like we ought to do or must do. There must be an attraction. And sometimes, like the prodigal son, maybe we are unable to recognize what is truly good until we have reached “the end of our ropes.” Like you said in option 3, I think the invitation is to constantly and humbly turn our attention back to God. It is in this turning and consent to acknowledge God that it becomes possible for love, joy, peace to flow from their source within ourselves in God. I guess these would be the “fruits of repentance.” Because they would be the fruits of a renewed union with God, or the renewed consciousness of our union with God. If repentance is the turning of our attention back to God, then our life is one of perpetual repentance. Is this what Jesus meant when he said to seek, to ask, and to knock? When I am not seeking, it is because I believe I am okay that I do not need anything. However, the poor in spirit will always be diligently seeking and begging!! And theirs is the kingdom of heaven!!!
-Perhaps this aptly describes what my words have been leading to. I found this quote yesterday which I had written over a year or so ago. It is from Merton:
“Blessed are they that mourn.”
This peculiar sorrow of the third beatitude, the sorrow of the soul that realizes its exile and can no longer find any consolation save in longing for home, is the beginning of our liberation.
I have found this to be true. I found discovered two paradoxical truths. One is our intimate union with God. In some way, our souls are knit in God and God interwoven in our souls. Eckhart calls it the ground of our soul. Others have called it a divine spark. There is Something within us that has created us and loves us. It is very near. The other truth is there also seems to be a vast chasm of difference between myself and God. Maybe this is what Merton refers to when he says that our soul realizes its exile.
-I will relate this exile to my confession and need for repentance. I am not looking for pity but tears come as I think of all this. When I think of my exile. I have such high ideals and thoughts of God!! I am an idealist. Which is fine except that my life continually does not match up to my ideals. I can be/am inpatient and disgruntled with myself and family. I can be discontent with my family and my life. Lesli has told me once or twice that she feels that no one in our family can ever live up to what I expect…that I am always trying to improve everyone. “How condemning!! How shameful!!” These are my thoughts as I relate this comments. I say I want to follow Jesus and love God but I fail to love even my own family. But how can I listen to and accept the invitation to turn my attention to God? I think you are right in what are some concrete practices I can engage in that will turn my attention from self to God and to remember his goodness. I will let you know. I have recently thought of writing letters to my kids—letters of encouragement and blessing. Maybe I should add apologies in there as well!
-I am so sorry for rambling on! I have just written down what has come out without deliberate organization of thought. Maybe we can continue to write/talk. The more I think and write the more I realize I do not truly know. Or rather that there is more to consider and to integrate into my heart and mind and life.
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"Worship the Lord in
the beauty of holiness"
Mr. Russell Tillman