repentance

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The Truth about my Dark Side

Published January 15, 2013 by joypatton

The other morning I was on the treadmill shuffling through songs on my iPod.  In Kelly Clarkson’s “Darkside,” she sings, “There’s a place I know; it’s not pretty there and few have ever gone.  If I show it to you now, will it make you run away?  Will you stay even if it hurts?  Even if I try to push you out, will you return?”

She also speaks truth when she says “Everybody’s got a dark side; nobody’s picture perfect.”  We all have parts of ourselves that we would rather leave in the dark.  Things that we live with in the dark, but know would be repulsive in the light.  Things that we work hard to hide so that no one ever sees how ugly we are.  The Bible actually calls it sin, missing the mark of perfection.  And we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect best (Romans 3:23).  Since Adam and Eve took their first bite of the forbidden fruit, everyone is born with a dark side.

The questions that Kelly asks in the song are the questions we all long to know the answers to: “Do you love me?  Will you love me even with my dark side?”  I’ve been in relationships where my sin has been exposed, and they have decided to walk away.  My dark side was too much.  I was too scary.  In any relationship, you run the risk of being hurt.  My dark side could come out and do some serious damage.  It has and it probably will again.  I want to know that I am worth the risk.

This is where pop culture and theology collide.  As I listened to Kelly sing these words I was reminded of something I had read in Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child.  “Only in a relationship of the deepest intimacy can we allow another person to know us as we truly are.  It is difficult enough for us to live with the awareness of our stinginess and shallowness, our anxieties and infidelities, but to disclose our dark secrets to another is intolerably risky…The greatest fear of all is that if I expose the imposter and lay bare my true self, I will be abandoned by my friends and ridiculed by my enemies…I cannot admit that I have done wrong, I cannot admit that I have made a huge mistake, except to someone who I know accepts me.  The person who cannot amidst that he is wrong is desperately insecure.  At root he does not feel accepted, and so he represses his guilt, he covers his tracks.”

What I’m learning is that the only way to experience true intimacy in a relationship is to let them see your dark side.  If you don’t, you are always questioning whether the other person just loves the pretty parts, the parts you know they will like and accept.  We are afraid to completely be ourselves because the dark side just might scare them away.  But when I know that someone loves me, that they will forgive me, that I am accepted and worth the risk, I am free to be completely myself.  Only when I bring my dark side to the light can it begin to heal.  There is no healing in the dark, only death.  In order to heal, it must be brought into the light.  In order to experience true, authentic love, it must be brought to the light.  In order to be fully known and fully loved, it must be brought to the light.  This is the path to the authentic relationships we all say we want.  This is the painful path that my husband and I have walked together.  He is Jesus “with skin on” to me.

Jesus came as the remedy for the dark side.  Without the work of the cross, my dark side keeps me from the presence of a holy and perfect God.  Darkness cannot dwell with the light.  What happened at the cross was that God made a way for my dark side to be forgiven, for all my sin to be paid for.  Because Jesus lived a perfect life and died an innocent death, there was a way for my sin to be accounted for, so that I could dwell with God in the light of his love forever.  Jesus overcame the darkness when he overcame death.  Because he lives, I can live in the light.  Because I know that he accepts me, I can risk rejection in my human relationships as I learn to tell the truth.

Even if other people reject me, the truth is that Jesus decided that I was worth it.  He saw my dark side, and he didn’t run away.  He didn’t run, and so I don’t have to run away either.  I can bring my sin to him knowing that it has been forgiven and always will be.  I’m not too much for him; my dark side doesn’t scare him.  When I run toward him instead of away from him, he reminds me who I really am, a beloved daughter, a Princess.  He reminds me that I am uniquely designed for a specific purpose (Psalm 139:16); that I am not big enough or powerful enough to ruin his good and perfect plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11); that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:39).  He reminds me that I can’t use up all of his grace and that I will always have a way back into his arms.  He promises to stay with me.  The only question is will I stay with him?  Or will I let shame, guilt and fear push me back into the dark?

“You know that we’re worth it. Don’t run away.  Promise you’ll stay.”

What would it take for you to share your “dark side”?

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Contemplating Confession

Published October 18, 2011 by joypatton

A few months ago my friend invited me to have lunch with her and one other friend of mine.  Little did I know that lunch would begin a whole different journey for the three of us.  She had this crazy idea that the three of us should try an accountable/confession group like the kind she had read about in Anatomy of the Soul.  I told her in no uncertain terms that she was crazy and even more crazy for inviting me to be in a group like that.  “I suck at repentance” were my exact words.  She reminded me that I was the one who taught her about repentance.  I hate it when God makes me live what I teach.  Because these two women had taught me about repentance through their example, I agreed to be in this little group of three strands.

We decided to launch into deeper waters together trusting that God had life for us a little further out from the safety of the shore.  We have been meeting every week for about two hours.  My other friend and I were somewhat shocked when my crazy friend started writing down all of her sins from the week.  However we were happy to listen and speak the truth of the gospel to her when she shared her list.  But I knew the day would come when she would challenge us to do more than just listen.  We would eventually need to bring our own lists.  And so I have been contemplating confession…

Is this really what God meant when he said “confess your sins to one another?”  Will there really be life in speaking the source my shame out loud?  Are you sure this isn’t going to ruin my sweet friendship with these women?  But God has been gently speaking to me about this and showing me that nothing that stays in the darkness can heal.  It must be brought out into the light… painfully, ruthlessly drug into the light.

Last week though I learned something about myself, and it wasn’t pretty.  After our group when I saw how I had hurt my friend once again, I struggled with shame for the rest of the day into the next day.  When my sin is brought into the light, I feel shame.  Shame over sin is healthy, but this kind of shame becomes toxic when accompanied by phrases like “I’ll never get it right” and “All I do is hurt people.”  This leads me straight into my Orphan thinking where I start to feel unworthy and unloved and unacceptable.  Personally, I hate feeling like an Orphan, so then my Ice Queen kicks in.  She takes a vow to never feel that way again, so she spends her time analyzing what happened and justifying exactly why she did what she did.  But ironically this does not absolve her shame.  It only makes it worse because at the end of all her analysis and justification, the truth of her sin remains.  And the truth is that she will mess it up again and hurt people again because she is broken.  She is not perfect.

But the Princess cannot let the Ice Queen or the Orphan way of thinking reign.  She takes the truth of what she did into the light with her loving King Father where He reminds her that her sin and shame was covered on the cross.   She worships and asks Him to speak the truth to her about what happened, instead of letting the Ice Queen make her own truth.  She, unlike the Orphan or the Ice Queen, can accept the grace that is freely offered to her in His presence.  She believes that Jesus took her shame when He died on the cross.  This is what my friends help me to remember to do.  They urge me on into the throne room and will not let me wander the hall as an Orphan afraid to go in one more time.  They will not let the Ice Queen stay on her throne of self-righteousness.  They lovingly, compassionately push the Princess into the Throne Room of Grace.

False repentance is easy, but true repentance comes at a price.  It hurts.  That is what is so great about the gospel.  Jesus decided that the pain and hurt He had to endure on my behalf was worth it.  He paid the ultimate price of death, and when I believe in the work of the cross, His blood covers all my sin, past, present and future.  As we have had opportunity to talk to some other people about our group, the question they ask is how do you keep the group from becoming self-focused?  How do you overcome the shame and fear inevitably associated with speaking your sin out loud?  The answer is THE GOSPEL.  The point of the group is as much about confession as it is about preaching the gospel to each other.  We get to be the hands and feet and face of Jesus to each other when our sin is drug into the light.  In the light there is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.  In the light, there is no accuser, only mercy and grace.  In the light, we are fully known and fully loved.

So I’m still not sure how this little experiment will turn out, but my friends are showing me the value of confession.  I would encourage you to bring your sin into the light.  Maybe you need to start in the Throne Room of Grace with the King Father and believe that what Jesus did on the cross was enough to cover your sin.  Maybe it starts with speaking the truth to one other person who can remind you of the truth of the gospel.  Maybe you can find two crazy friends…

“And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his work is not in us.”  (I John 1:4-10 ESV)

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