Today I type with a heavy heart. I hope your heart is feeling the weight, too! That doesn’t seem like a very friendly greeting, does it? But it is a heartfelt hope I hold for you, I promise! Unless you feel the heaviness in your own heart, you will be at risk to go through the fall Feasts without having repented for that which separates you from The Father. There are currently many teachings about the “Month of Repentance”, Elul. Many of them are excellent, and I would encourage you to be inspired by some. The real project, though, will be for you to get before The Father in spiritual “nakedness” and let Him guide you through this repenting process. Too often, when we think of repenting, we think of the glaring sin that has to be eliminated. Definitely, it needs to go, but I present to you that there are a plethora of “little” sins that may be just as effective in keeping you distanced from the blessed life Scripture says you can be living. As always, I will use myself as an example, even though it’s not entirely comfortable for me. My prayer is that in glimpsing the things I experience in my own spiritual “nakedness”, you will be prompted to do some digging inside yourself. Our details and experience are sure to differ, but our need to understand repentance is exactly the same!
Last night I quietly marked my 23rd week since walking away from the cross in prayer with The Father. With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur just around the corner, my daily prayers have been centered around repentance and righteousness. As I mentioned earlier, the bigger things I need to address in my own life are pretty simple and clear. More prayer time, less complaining. More good deeds, less pride. The list is common, wouldn’t you say? But last night during this prayer, my heart “broke” and tears flowed freely. There aren’t even words for the ache I felt, so I knew I was about to “hear” from The Father. And hear from Him, I did! As you know, He most often communicates in prayer using little thoughts, nudges and images in our mind. Last night, He showed me some things from the beginning of my journey almost eleven years ago. I was stumped, because I didn’t understand how it fit in with my theme of repentance prayers, but He assured me it did, so I got still and looked at what He was showing me.
I began to see images in my own mind of myself as a brand new believer. There I was, weeping with gratitude upon awakening for the opportunity to live another day. Another image came of me weeping again at mealtime, because I knew He provided my meals, even when I was busy denying Him. I saw the image of me stumbling through my first prayers, something both God and I chuckled over for a moment before more images came. There was my desk, laden with library books to study and an open Bible with a pen and notebook. And then images of myself dancing as I mopped the kitchen, singing songs to Him. Images came of me blessing my grandchildren, complete with my hand on their head. Then, in a matter of minutes, He flooded my thoughts with images that progressed through ten years of my journey. It began to dawn on me what He was “saying” and that there were things I have yet to repent from lurking in the recesses of my heart. Somewhere on the Narrow Path, I had begun to allow knowing about Him to replace experiencing Him! Has that happened to you, too? Especially with social media, we can get more caught up in being right than in being righteous! In having knowledge, instead of wisdom. In thinking any Light comes from us without Him first shining it.
He also “showed” me last night that He has been laying things on my heart that I know are there, but that I haven’t initiated yet. I’ll give you two “for instances” (there are more) and I pray they will prompt you to look at the things He has laid on your heart that you might be ignoring. The first thing He gave me was way back in 2008. That is how long I have been being willfully disobedient in this area!! He showed me then that the meat that we buy in the supermarket hasn’t been raised with consideration to the life of the animal. I had already begun eating only clean meats, but I knew there was more to it than that. He never intended His creations to be treated like products in a factory, but to live healthy full lives, being cared for by humans that truly cared about them. I used the excuse that I couldn’t afford fancy butcher shop meats that came from wholesome local farms, but that’s all it was, an excuse! Daniel refused to eat the king’s food at all rather than compromise the guidelines God gave regarding diet. To that argument, I used the excuse that I have always eaten meat, I grew up on a farm (!) there’s no way I could just give it up. Another excuse! Equally useless and disobedient!
The final images that came through my thoughts last night were of times in these last ten years I had “heard” Him “say”, “You could offer to help” when I saw someone broken down on the side of the road, or saw an elderly lady getting groceries into her trunk, or saw an older gentleman raking his lawn. There were many more images akin to this theme, but you get the idea from the few examples I gave. I had excuses for these promptings, too! Things like, “It’s not safe for a woman to stop for strangers”. Or, “I can’t help, I can barely walk myself!” But wait, there’s more excuses! How about, “next time I see that (whatever that is) I will certainly help!” After last night I can say, excuses! Lame, lame excuses! The truth is, He sent me ways to be used of Him, and I made excuses! Have you ever been prompted by God to help someone and not obeyed the prompting? What excuses did you give yourself? I’m thinking I’m not alone here, or God wouldn’t have me writing these personal details of my life, displaying my flaws for all to see. You don’t have to tell me what your excuses are, but please be honest with yourself and with The Father about them!
And so, I began this day with a new perspective about repentance, and with heartfelt gratitude to wake up alive to rejoice in another day. Not all repentance is about quitting the willful sin we engage in, although that is an imperative element. Some repentance will be in the areas we believe are small things, but aren’t really small things at all! They’re huge! Ignoring a prompting to help someone from The Father is disobedience. Not practicing discipline in areas of caring for our body is disobedience. Not regarding the lives of the animals we eat is disobedience. Not being disciplined in seeking Him and His ways before anything else is disobedience. Not being genuinely grateful for our blessings is disobedience. To not give due reverence and awe to Him (daily, and many times daily) is disobedience. Going through the motions of being a believer instead of seeking to experience The Father’s presence can even be disobedience! Repentance is the only action that will set us back on course as we sojourn down this Narrow Path!
If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired like I am, I would encourage you to search yourself for the hidden disobediences that lurk in your own heart. We cannot change that which we don’t identify, and we cannot walk in the fullness of life God has for us if we allow our own excuses to stand between us and Him. Without question, our obedience is directly connected to our health and well-being, as well as any favor that is bestowed upon us by our Father in Heaven. This connection is a theme repeated many times in the Tanak. We walk in obedience, and God blesses us with health, wisdom, peace and even with His salvation! I beseech you to discuss obedience with Him in your prayers as we approach Yom Kippur, you’ll be so glad you did! I bid you every blessing until we “meet” again next week, and leave you with these words from Deuteronomy 7 in the Tanak:
And it shall come to pass, because you hearken to these ordinances, and keep, and do them, that YHWH your God shall keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore unto your fathers, and He will love you, and bless you, and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your body and the fruit of your land, your corn and your wine and your oil, the increase of your flock, in the land which He swore unto your fathers to give you. You shalt be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. And YHWH will take away from you all sickness; and He will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you know, upon you, but will lay them upon all them that hate you. And you shall consume all the peoples that YHWH your God shall deliver unto you; your eye shall not pity them; neither shall you serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto you.