As a teenager, Saturday afternoons were always spent at the mall. My friends and I loved to go to Golden Discs- our local record shop. Back in those days, you didn’t download music; you handled it, read the covers and the lyrics, and waited for a turntable to have a preview. We would spend hours in the store, listening to the latest songs, looking at posters and merchandise from our favorite bands, and talking with other teens.
I loved those Saturdays. That was until we had to leave to walk home.
When we would leave the shopping centre, we would be accosted by a man with a bullhorn. With his large leather Bible and wearing a sandwich board with the word REPENT written in large white letters, he would scream at us, “Repent! Repent!”
Mostly, we would laugh it off, but over time, this constant preaching began to wear me down. I would try to avoid the preacher, but he would always seem to find me. When he did, he would shout at me, “Sinner, repent! Sinner, repent!”
What Does It Mean To Repent?
For years I think I had PTSD when I would hear the word repent. I had not grown up in church, and so this term came to represent everything that I understood about Christians. To me, they were a group of people shouting at others, “Repent!”
Eventually, I did repent. About six years later, as a young adult, I gave my life to Christ. Everything began to change. I have come to treasure that old Bible word, repent. This word, which is pregnant with purpose and loaded with meaning, may, in fact, be the most beautiful of all biblical words.
When we repent, we recognize that we have been thinking the wrong way and need to realign our mind with God’s mind.
The Greek word for repent is metanoia. It means “to change your mind.” When we repent, we have a turn-around in our thinking. When we repent, we recognize that we have been thinking the wrong way and need to realign our mind with God’s mind. The Hebrew version of the word contains the idea of returning home, coming back, and turning around. The word repent is less a judgment and more an amazing, gracious invitation.
The Apostle Paul understood this. In Romans 2:4, Paul tells the church that God’s kindness leads us to repentance. It is a generous gift from a loving Father. Repentance comes as a result of God’s lovingkindness in our lives.
Lessons From A Toddler
When my daughter was a young toddler, I came home from work one afternoon to discover that she was in big trouble with her mom! All over the walls of my freshly painted living room were the characters of the Mickey Mouse Cartoon Club in an array of Crayola colours. When mom was folding some laundry, my little one had taken her box of crayons and had her first experience as a budding graffiti artist.
Disciplining a two-year-old is tricky. We couldn’t have her becoming a young vandal, and so she was sent to the naughty step. The naughty step was our bottom step and was created as a place for our little ones to take a time out to think about their actions when they had been less than well behaved. After some time, my daughter reappeared in the room. She was visibly upset, and I could tell that she was sad about her actions.
Part of me was impressed with the quality of her artwork. I could tell which squiggle was Goofy and which was Donald Duck! When she came back into the room, I watched her reach into the large box of baby wipes and begin scrubbing the walls. With all of her strength, I watched my little princess try to clean up her mess. No matter how hard she scrubbed, though, she couldn’t get that wax crayon off the wall. With all of her strength, she tried to clean away the evidence, but to no avail.
Then it happened. In a moment, I will never forget, my daughter turned around and with tears in her eyes, held out the baby wipe and said, “Daddy, help!”
As a minister of the gospel, I have tried to understand the relationship between God’s wrath, God’s love, God’s kindness, and his call to his people to repent. This encounter with my two-year-old daughter gave me a window into a theological concept that I had struggled to come to terms with. My little, heartbroken, sin-shamed daughter, having reached the end of her own ability to clean up her own mistakes, did the only thing that was left to do – she turned around.
Two words were enough to enlist the full resources, strength, and love of her patiently awaiting parent. I took that baby wipe, and in a few moments, the cartoon characters were gone – and maybe a little paint too!
These days, when I hear the word repent, I think: “Yes, repent.”
These days, when I hear the word repent, I think of those two little words: “Daddy, help.”
Lord, I receive your invitation to turn around. Thank you that you are waiting for me with all of your power, strength, and love, and you are ready to step into my broken life and sin-shamed story and lead me back to your heart.