Chapter 10: Not a Possession, but a Practice
I could almost start a countdown, when I’d hear a knock on my bedroom door.
“Matthew, can I talk to you?”
Like any other kid, I was always getting into mischief or getting upset because I couldn’t have my way. My dad, a man of few words, would reprimand me and I’d run off to my room because I was embarrassed or mad. I remember crying REALLY LOUD to make a LOUD point that I was deeply affected by how I was being treated and I wanted my mom and dad to hear exactly how I felt.
It’s funny because I don’t remember any of the points of disagreements during these times when I was a kid, but what sticks with me is how they would always end. After that knock on the door, my dad would come in my bedroom, come right over to me where I was sitting on the top bunk of my bed, look me in the eyes and say, “I am sorry”. Each time, we would talk, and we would learn, and we moved on together as a family. It didn’t matter how dramatic I was being, or what I had done in the situation. He never missed an opportunity to offer a hand out to me when we had our differences.
Looking back, I can see even more clearly what my dad was doing: he was teaching me that repentance was carried out in relationship and not alone, in shame. As a Dad now, and I reflect back to how my Dad would go through the steps of repentance with me and I recognize that it took courage for him to do this with my siblings and I. But every time, he came to us, he asked for forgiveness, and he offered relationship.
Usually when I think about repentance, I generally think about it in the way that I’ve done something wrong, I’ve made mistake, I’ve hurt someone and I feel ashamed of how I’ve acted. KJ Ramsey framed repentance in a whole new way for me, giving us the bigger picture that repentance is about being honest with ourselves and others that things aren’t right in our world and within our community, and recognizing that we contribute to that. But here’s the best part: repentance is all about community, and that’s part of why it takes so much courage. It’s offering ourselves to each other, and being unified even within our sin and our suffering. Every time my dad came to knock on my door and say, “I’m sorry,” he was saying, “I want to be in relationship with you, no matter what.”
K.J. Ramsey says, “Jesus’ command to be courageous in the presence of suffering is one we all can repeatedly attempt to obey with hope because courage is not a possession but a practice. Courage is not the absence of anxiety but the practice of trusting we are held and loved no matter what. It is facing the present moments with open eyes and willingness to participate in God’s story making all things new, even when our world is falling apart, our bodies are breaking in terrible ways, and we don’t know how we’ll survive one more hard thing. Repentance forms a shape of the cross and resurrection in our stories as we choose to practice the virtue of courage every single day.”
Aren’t those words freeing? To think of repentance as “not a possession, but a practice.” We can practice being courageous in repentance every day, and we might not always get it right, but we can keep trying. Repentance takes courage, but we aren’t alone. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” We don’t need to be afraid because He is with us.
“Courage empowers us to listen where we normally would defend, to witness pain instead of judging it, to acknowledge failure as room to grow, and to sit with discomfort like it’s a dawn, not a death.”
If you are like me, you are still learning this too. It takes courage to listen and not defend. It is brave to acknowledge that we have room to grow, to sit in our own discomfort. This is a practice, not a possession. Like my dad, I want to practice this kind of courage each day, one step at a time, knowing that Jesus is with me the whole way. And even if I’ve been hurt or hurt others, even if this whole community experience hasn’t gone exactly the way I thought it would, I’m not going to stop repenting and reaching out to those around me.
Think about a past experience you’ve had in repentance or reconciliation. What was your experience like? In what ways can you reach out in repentance to those in your community today?
Read This Too Shall Last by KJ Ramsey with us. Want to start the series from the beginning? Start here and check out our hope for this series within our Calvary community, and learn more about where you can get your copy of the book and follow along.