We have an ugly stump in our backyard. Unfortunately (or should I say, fortunately?), this is the best picture I have of it. It’s on the far right of the picture.
The stump needs a sledge hammer and a strong arm at some point because the thing is obviously not going to grow into anything beautiful ever again. (There is, I have to say, some charming fungi growing on the side, but that symbol will have to be left for another post.)
I felt a bit like that stump last week, which is a big reason why I posted nothing on this blog last Wednesday. I had nothing to share about what God has been teaching me, even though I prayed for words to say, as I do every week. I felt like that Casting Crowns “East to West” song, that I was just one mistake away from Him leaving me this way. Sometimes I feel like I have to apologize so many times, my apologies start to feel meaningless, even though I really do mean them every time I utter them.
I’m starting to get a reputation with my kids for apologizing. After I last apologized to Mr. C for losing patience with him, he said, “I knew you would say sorry. While you were angry, I was thinking about how you would say you’re sorry later.” I’m not sure how I feel about that response. I guess it’s good to have the reputation for saying I’m sorry, but I’d rather not have to say it at all.
I know repentance is more than just saying sorry. The Hebrew word for repent is shuwb, which means to repent and turn away, to cease from. If I keep getting impatient, have I really repented? What’s the point of trying when I know I will probably do it again?
I was encouraged, however, when I looked up the times this word is used in the Old Testament and found one instance of Moses asking God to turn away from His burning anger (Ex. 32:12). Obviously, God’s anger was righteous and therefore not sin, but God does get angry with the Israelites again and again. If God repented in the first case and came back to do the same again, then how much more will I do the same as a sinful human being?
Then I looked up repent in the New Testament. I found it used in Luke 17:4: “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” If Jesus is encouraging the disciples to forgive someone multiple times, does it follow that we should repent multiple times? I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to repent with sincerity every time I sin, even if I know I may struggle with the sin in the future. Better to attempt repentance and turning away from sin while acknowledging it was wrong to those around you than not at all.
The biggest encouragement God gave me for this was on Sunday when my pastor talked about the Jesse Tree stump, a symbol my kids had hung on our Jesse Tree a few days before the sermon. The stump represents Jesse and his family. If you don’t remember, let me remind you about Jesse’s family. I don’t know much about Jesse, but his grandmother was Rahab, a foreign prostitute. His son David started out strong and did repent from his sins, but even as Israel’s greatest king, he had an affair (probably against the woman’s will) and killed the woman’s husband to cover it up. Later, David’s son Amnon fell in love with his sister and raped her. David was angry, but he apparently did nothing about it. Then Absalom, another of David’s sons, took matters in his own hands and killed his brother Amnon. Later, Absalom gathered a group of men to himself and fought against his father and his men. Another of David’s sons, Solomon had many foreign wives and concubines who didn’t follow God and who turned Solomon’s heart away from fully serving and following God. And it went mostly downhill from there.
It hadn’t hit me then, but if God could take a group of people who were as messed up as David and his family, and bring Jesus out of it, then He (who is after all the same God) can take this stump of a person and bring life out of her, as well. So why remain discouraged over my failings? I will repent and turn to the One who can stir new sap, tinge green into the dead wood in my heart.