True Repentance

To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant to the hands of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy on us.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord,
have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Psalm 123:1-3 ESV

In this introspective age, we easily substitute our subjective feelings about ourselves for the objective gift of God’s forgiveness. If we are on our knees, hating ourselves, we are not likely to look up and receive forgiveness. We have sunk into an inculcated, emotional state of feeling toward the self, an emotional view we’ve had so long we hardly notice it. And this is not prayer. It is a common and serious barrier to receiving the forgiving grace of God. [1]

Lent is a sober season, but also one that can yield great joy. We may resist a full embrace of Lent if diseased introspection is contaminating our confessional. An aversion to repentance grows where we’ve confused it with self-loathing and regretful ruminating over our weaknesses and mistakes. There is neither doom nor shame in true Christian repentance. As we lift our faces to the Father of all mercy, the restoration and freedom He gives scandalizes our self-hatred. Confessional prayer offered unto God ushers in a mysterious joy as we simultaneously face the heartbreaking extent of our need for Christ’s sacrifice, and the unfathomable depth of God’s kindness towards us.

Come Holy Spirit, come. Search us and illuminate any way that introspection is corrupting our experience of repentance. Remove from our hearts any cruel judge or merciless punisher who blocks our view of You. Create a cleansed and kind space within where we can receive Your merciful illumination. Flood our hearts with Your love so they can be tenderly broken. We praise you for the objective reality of forgiveness that both transcends and descends to us.

[1] Leanne Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul Through Healing Prayer (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1991), 146.
Painting: Jacob Jordaens, 1623, An Apostle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Meditation prepared by Sarah Colyn, drawing on the writings and ministry of Leanne Payne.