I used to have a serious temper. Since then, I’ve really matured; these days I vent my anger with sarcasm or passive aggressive behavior.
But those early years… it’s a wonder my parents didn’t resort to tainting my food with Valium. If I didn’t get what I wanted, I would scream, slam doors, cry, and slam more doors. Looking back, I realize I was just getting myself more and more worked up the more resistance I encountered.
I’m afraid I do the same with God. But I have a fancier word for it:
People have a bad habit of trying to manipulate God (sometimes when I say ‘people’, I mean ‘me’, but it’s easier for me to take the hit if I bring some of you down with me). For some people, they do something good thinking they’ll impress Him. For others, an elaborate “I suck and I’m sorry!” – the more tears the better – is meant to win His favor. Either way, we put a lot of energy into doing something that we think will get God to do something. “God will help me if I just cry harder.” Somehow, that all gets bundled together as repentance.
Rob Wegner preached this weekend, and one of the things he showed us was Jesus’ idea of repentance. Like most of the things Jesus taught, his framework here was against the grain.
Granted, there’s plenty in the Bible about God responding to our sorrow. But Jesus’ understanding of the relationship between our repentance and God’s movement was different. Rather than God choosing to act because of what we do, Jesus tells us that God IS acting and we need to wake up to it. Our repentance is about us getting to participate in what He’s doing, not causing Him to do it.
The difference couldn’t be more significant. When I ‘repent’ to get God to do what I want, I’ve minimized everything He is. There’s nothing inspired about a kid throwing a tantrum. But when I wake up to the good things He is already doing so that I can take part, I get a bigger picture of Him.
Have you had a wake-up moment where you saw what God was doing and decided to jump in? Did you realize what God was doing to reach the world (you included) and decide to respond? I’d love to hear about it.