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Do you mean it?

March 14, 2016

She was really losing her mind. A rich man (a conclusion I came to just by looking at him) was waiting outside for her. He didn’t even have the courtesy to arrange that they meet someplace else, nor did the thought of using discretion ever crossed his mind. He had to show up right in her intimate family space to do what he does best, without a hint of shame.

Somehow he convinced her to pack her stuff and leave her husband and kids to follow him. How he managed to do that is still beyond us. He wasn’t even nice; He came off as arrogant, brutal, condescending and determined to get his way—to unashamedly break this family apart.

She is my neighbor, a stay-at-home mum and she has just decided that she’s had enough with this kind of life. I came to the scene when I was back from work and saw her husband pleading her not to leave him. It broke my heart because usually, we, men, do these stupid things. After having understood what was happening, I went in and asked to talk to her in private which, to my surprise, they agreed to.

With a calm but yet strong and unwavering voice I tried to reason her not to make that mistake—especially with that strange guy waiting for her. I opened her eyes to the fact that she has an amazing husband and also to the seriousness of the mistake to which she’d eventually regret for the rest of her life. Listening to myself, I thought I was pretty convincing.

After my speech, she was overwhelmed and started crying. She couldn’t believe that she was actually going to leave her family and I was happy that she was coming to herself. But then, something incomprehensible happened. After about twenty minutes she decided she was just being emotional and had to leave after all. And this time, despite the tears pouring down her husband’s cheeks, she really left.

I don’t dream that often but when I do, my dreams, in most cases, do not make sense; hence the exhaustion when I wake up. But in few cases, like this one, they do. I was still under the shock when I woke up as to how she was managed to change her mind that quick. But after giving it some thought, I realized I wasn’t surprised at all.

This apparent “repentance” which is then followed by repenting of repenting is not an uncommon experience—and perhaps the dream was a glance of myself in a mirror.

Our hearts are capable of the most puzzling emotions. Regret and mourning over an act or attitude can be replaced afterwards by a renewed interest in the very thing that caused us regret. Pain over a regret eventually fades away. It is the impact that it made on you which will determine its lasting value—the greater the impact, the longer it will take you to return to that which caused you regret in the first place.

Hardship has produced an apparent change of the mind of Pharaoh, but as soon as he saw any relief from the harm of plagues, he would go back to “hardening his heart” once again. Once, he really seems to repent of his actions and be sincere in his regret as he says: ‘This time I have sinned, the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong’ (Exodus9:27). But the story teaches us that even after the death of his own son, after the mourning was over, when we think he’s mourning as to where his stubbornness has lead his country; we see him drowning with the entire host of the empire’s army in the Red sea.

How many phony repentances, like Pharaoh’s, have we made so far to God—or the woman’s in my dream? I realized that true and false repentance share this moment of regret but only the genuine repentant turns his life around. The mistake might be that we , by default, try to appease our conscience and alleviate the guilt instead of loading it until, as John Owen says, it “be thoroughly affected with the guilt of its indwelling corruption, until it is sensible of its wound, and lie in the dust before the Lord.”

Unless we understand that we’re sinning against the Lord and him only (Ps51:4), trampling underfoot the Son of God, profaning the blood of the covenant by which we’re sanctified and outraging the Spirit of grace (Heb10:29); and unless we load our conscience with that and mourn over that mostly before we mourn over the consequences of our sins, our repentance will be fleeting and short-lived.

True repentance can’t be passive. The plea is thus simple: Don’t waste your guilt!


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