Why I Don’t Like to Think About Repentance Now

door-1110670_960_720 I slammed a door this morning. On purpose. Somehow, someway, it seemed better to take my frustration out on an inanimate wooden object than to yell or scream or pummel my fists in the air, Billy Blanks, two-year-old tantrum-style.

Really, the messiness of my morning is a confession of sorts. It’s my way of telling you that I don’t have it all together. It’s also my way of reminding myself that life doesn’t always—maybe ever—go the way I think it should, and that I need to lessen unrealistic expectations of perfection I place on myself and on those around me.

Because life, man: it’s messy.

I can sometimes feel up to my ears in deadlines—for writing and speaking and all the Very Good Things I’ve said a hearty yes to. Instead of remembering that inspiration will come when it’s supposed to, and instead of leaning into waiting for the right time as opposed to my own forced version of it, I find myself running to the other end of the house and slamming a door as hard as I can along the way. And when the door slams and seems to shake the walls of our urban-suburban house, and when a haunting silence suddenly ensues from two young boys who all of the sudden find themselves wondering why their mama is so very mad, I feel righteously vindicated and like the world’s worst mother, all at the same time.

Is it just me?

But here’s the other part of my confession: when I run and when I slam and when I remove myself for approximately fifteen seconds from an eighteen-month-old little boy who wants nothing to do with a pair of miniature Levi’s his mama wants him to wear, I am somehow renewed. I don’t mean that in an And then I found Jesus, and he made it all happy-clappy right again sort of way, but a teensy, weensy amount of peace does starts to trickle over and in me and through me.

So, is that God? Is that the peace of Christ? Perhaps.

When I walk back into the same room that felt so hot and stuffy and frustrating mere minutes before, I am renewed. I am ready to tackle each and every anti-pants situation that comes my way.

And I suppose this re-do, this turning around, this do-over of sorts is technically called repentance. It isn’t something I tend to latch onto as a part of my everyday vocabulary. Like, ever. It makes me think of hellfire and brimstone billboards on the side of Interstate 80, the ones that yoke “Repent!” with “Perish!” and twist the words of Jesus into an all or nothing salvific scare tactic.

But it also makes me think of a church I attended in college. Her young identity was so overly rooted in repentance—in ridding our secular CD collections of potentially impure thoughts, in ridding our natural tongue for any eccentricities that might not point to a faith-filled life—that by the time I left the church, I felt like I’d lost sight of Jesus altogether.

The act of repentance had been so intricately tied to everything I was doing wrong, and to everything I needed to do to “get right” with God and with others. And it had so consumed my faith then, that now, almost twenty years later, negative associations between doing and rightness wear me down. I don’t so much like to think about repentance now, still. And honestly, I haven’t done the work of processing through the positive side of repenting to know what it might mean on the other side.

But turning around I can understand. Starting over is something I can wrap my mind around. I can look at my reaction to this morning’s situation: I tried to take time into my own hands (which, anyone who’s ever hung out with small humans isn’t necessarily the greatest idea in America). I needed another cup of coffee, and may have been, oh, you know, slightly grumpy. And I’d just woken up with a cold—the kind that parches your lips and makes you feel like you have Chia teeth because you’ve been haphazardly breathing through your mouth all night.

So, I wasn’t exactly the kindest human to my children. I needed a do-over. I needed to make a U-turn, with my son and with myself. I guess that means I really did do and implement and put into practice the act of repentance. As per the word itself, I’m still not ready to purposefully use or utter “repentance” in the context of a sentence again. But I just might practice turning—toward the Holy, toward others, toward myself— again. Maybe.

Cara Meredith

Writer at Be Mama Be
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. She is passionate about issues of racial and social justice, and also can’t get enough of dinners around the table with those she loves. Her first book, a memoir about her journey into issues of race, releases in January 2019 (Zondervan).

Latest posts by Cara Meredith (see all)

  • I slam doors with the best of them, too, Cara. Thanks for being open and wrestling with all those big, “faith-y” words and how they can bring us closer to Jesus or sometimes, turn us off.

    • carameredith.com

      Here’s to being in the struggle and wrestling together. Well, maybe not literally wrestling together, but “entering into the act of metaphorically wrestling with our faith alongside one another.” 😉

  • Yes–the idea of a do-over resonates much more with me, too. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one with just a TEENSY BIT OF BAGGAGE with this word 🙂

    • carameredith.com

      CHEERS to teensy bits of baggage, my friend. 🙂

  • Thanks for bringing my attention more to this familiar word I’ve often passed over and may have, unintentionally, linked it more with recrimination. It really is about turning.

    • carameredith.com

      I’m still processing it, obviously. I’d love to come to the point of being able to use it again in a healthy, non-baggage sort of way. And I think writing this post was the first step. 🙂

  • I’ve been known to slam doors, jump up and down, beat my fists against the wall…. Just ask my older kids who may remember. LOL Seriously, though, we do need to step away sometimes. I used to think of repentance as a hard thing, too, because of the connotations. But in actuality repentance is a gift which shows us God’s mercy and love. It’s a way to “start over” not be condemned. I do understand the difficulty of using the word, though, esp. when it’s been used almost like a weapon to show us how bad we are. I love your idea of “toward the Holy, toward others, toward myself…” Thanks for being so open and honest. It helps us to see we are not the only ones… Blessings to you dear Cara!