It was a lonely stretch of road at the Nevada border. I read the sign: last stop for gas for 20 miles… so I pulled in. I gased up, went in to get some food and then left. I had just re-entered the freeway when it hit me. I had forgotten to pay for the gas. It was not a good place to have such a realization. There was no way to turn around. A deep gully lined each side of the narrow two lane highway I was on. It was 20 miles before I could exit and return. ARGH! What I would have given for a place to turn around.
That is what repentance is… a place to turn around. We rarely receive it as a gift, but God offers it to all those that find themselves on the road to self-destruction. James commands: “Submit yourselves… to God” and “draw near to God.” And what will you find when you come to your senses and make the long journey back from the far country? The wrath of God? His rejection? No. “He will draw near to you.”
Now this repentance always begins with a degree of pain. James speaks of “changing laughter to mourning” and “joy to gloom.” It doesn’t seem like the process is going to be all that fun. But it isn’t the turning that’s pretty, the beauty is in what you travel back toward.
Mike Mason wrote: “Repentance consists of two parts, but many people settle for only the first part. Repentance means to turn, but many get stuck halfway. The first part of repentance is to turn away with loathing from sin; the second part is to turn toward all the good things God offers in exchange. Indeed it’s impossible to turn away from greed without turning toward generosity, to put aside lust without taking up love, or to escape bitterness without embracing celebration. … Many people grow tired of repenting because it doesn’t seem to make them happy. Yet full repentance is a joyful act in itself. If we’re not happy, we haven’t finished repenting. The sign that we’ve repented well is happiness, as God consumes our sacrifice of sorrow and exchanges it for joy. (Champagne for the Soul, pp. 17-18)
We humble ourselves before Him, and then that He lifts us up. What a gift repentance is!