Saturday, October 25, 2008

How Fast Should I Repent?

At 18 I worked cleaning carpets. I didn't necessarily aspire to that job, I kind of needed it. That need is related to my desire to eat regular meals. The truth is I was homeless. Now I never spent a night hanging curtains in my cardboard box or living under freeway overpasses. I just didn't have a place to call home for more than a week or two. And to be fair to my mom and step dad I chose to be homeless, but that's another story.

My employer was one of the greatest people that I have ever met. I never saw a man so happy in my life! Eugene was one of the most dedicated Christian men that I have ever met. To this day I remember his great example and how he lived what he believed. I think Eugene was also a minister. Now his wife was a very nice woman and I believe that she lived her religion, but I don't remember her being as happy as Eugene. I know that she irritated Eugene on many occasions but he dealt with it in such a way that I always had the thought that I would be that way when I got married. I guess it should have been a goal.

Now Eugene was a black man, or African American as is politically correct to say, and I'm happy to say that I never thought of him as black or as an African American. I just thought of him as a great guy and someone to look up to.

Eugene employed many people over the few months that I worked for him. None of them memorable except for one. I don't remember his name and I couldn't pick him out in a crowd. But he put me to shame, taught me a lesson that I will never forget.

At the time I worked for Eugene I had decided to give God some time off, a little vacation. To be completely honest I had been a faithful Christian for many years, since the age of five. But after 13 years as a practicing Pentecostal, member of the Assembly of God Church, and member of the Reformed Church of America, I felt that I had been abandoned by God in so many ways and decided that if God really needed me he would know where to find me. There was no Mapquest then so it would have been harder than you think. (At the time there was a move among Christians to find Jesus and I assumed that God if didn't know where he was then it would be harder to find me.)

Which brings me back to my co-worker. He was a new Christian. He had made mistakes in his life. As we worked together I found that I was working with a former addict and petty criminal, someone who previous to becoming a Christian had not strayed off the straight and narrow path but had never been on it. I'm not sure that he even knew it was there. I'll have to admit that he scared me a little bit. I was still learning about life and was very naive.

We were working on the carpets of a mobile home not far from where I live now, part of the equipment was a very long vacuum hose connected to the van outside. In the van was a gas powered motor and a propane powered heater to heat the water. It was a complex system of hoses, there was always the opportunity for an accident.

As I was feeding him the hose line and watching the monitoring equipment on the van I turned and saw him coming out of the door. As he moved through the door with the hose and cleaning wand he moved wrong and jammed the equipment and himself in such a way that he hurt himself. As soon as he did he let out a loud curse word that totally surprised me. It started with "s", ended with "t" and had a nice "hi" in the middle. What really surprised me was what happened next.

He disappeared.

What happened after that surprised me more. He hadn't really disappeared, he just had dropped on to his knees without considering his surroundings, without taking thought as to whether he was embarrasing himself or me in public and was asking God for forgiveness right then and there for cursing. He was living what he believed and I think God forgave him right then and there.

I like to store up my repentance. If I was to repent when I sinned that would take all of the fun out of repenting. I like to have lots of things to repent at one time that help to balance out the bad from the really bad. Say I've taken a pad of post it notes from work (hypothetically), which would be stealing which is bad. Well I like to have say, ten impure thoughts that I need to repent of at the same time. Ten impure thoughts and you stole the post-it notes. If I'm judging I'm thinking that the ten things that I didn't act upon kind of trump the one that I did and I'm even.
Speed repenting would create a whole new set of problems for me. If I was to start repenting when I sinned I might actually start to sin less because I would become more aware that I was sinning, especially on repeat sins. Some of my repeat sinning I've grown accustomed to, I have to give all of that up.

If I start to speed repent I might serve more, criticize less, look for the good in other people more, and heaven forbid... I might start to become Christ-like. Speed repenting would require me to talk to God more. If I want to be forgiven I'd have to start listening to my Heavenly Father. I might improve my relationship. All of these things might cramp what little style I have.
This kind of trend might make me likeable, feel better about myself, others might like to be around me, start talking behind my back with comments like; "he has a glow" or "I wonder what he's doing different because he is different". How about; "he sure lives his religion".

No, speed repenting takes the fun out of procrastinating. What kind of person wants to be obedient all of the time? What individual wants people saying nice things behind his back?


Maybe there was a reason that Eugene was always happy, seemed at peace with his place in the world. Maybe Eugene was a speed repenter and had taught that to my co-worker. Maybe Eugene was as Christ-like as I used to think I should be or possibly think I am. Who knows?

But it was thirty two years ago and some lessons are never too old to remember.

Maybe there should be more doing and less hearing.

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