I’ve never had a problem with the concept of ‘repentance’. I remember repenting many times at the altar of the toilet. “Oh, Lord, get me through this night and I promise to never drink again.”
Years later, I followed the exhortations of my Christian brothers who recited the verses in the Gospel’s plan of salvation, I knelt at the sanctuary altar, and I called myself ‘born again’. That was simple. I immediately knew that I would spend eternity with them in heaven sitting at the feet of Jesus. Or, at least, I hoped so. Unfortunately, it was a brain job, not a heart job. My character defects were still there, my old self was still there, my heart remained stone cold despite being born again. The promise of a new beginning was not the miracle which I expected that would change me in an instant, in a heartbeat, in a brilliant flash of divine renewal.
After many years of stumbling within my own self-will and pretending to understand renewal, regeneration, and rebirth, I once again found myself at the altar begging my Higher Power, Jesus, to clean up the mess I brought with me to kneel at his feet. “Just as I am, Lord, take me and fix me.”
There were no bursting fireworks, no hallelujahs, no light shows to welcome me; instead there was a simple peace, a knowing that this time I was sincere in my plea and I now had the work of engaging in a new beginning. I had to do the leg work, I had to do the soul-searching, I had to do the inventory of character defects, I had to make the amends necessary to cleaning up my mess. I was finally serious about that decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God. But, I found great comfort knowing without question that God would walk with me every step of the way.
“17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
This verse from the author of James in the New Testament is often quoted in recovery programs to teach us that our sobriety is dependent upon working the 12 steps and extending ourselves to encourage other drunks like us to attain sustained sobriety. Faith is fine and absolutely necessary, but, for a recovering alcoholic, works are equally important.
The same is true when I apply this inwardly to my own soul. I believe that I have always had faith; however, I was never able to follow through with a plan of self-renewal. I was weak and unwilling to give up my favorite character defects. I prayed, bowed, meditated and then prayed some more, but never developed a sustained plan of action. Oh yes, the New Year’s resolutions were always written on paper and the desire to live by them was there on January 1st, but the action to follow through was missing.
Today, I do my best to live by my Higher Power’s plan. As a result life is more than I ever expected, better than I deserve. I am an unworthy Jesus freak who knows that each day is a new beginning underscored by a mindset of repentance.
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36