Read His Words Before Ours!
“I’m sorry, Mama!” my little boy’s voice rang out. Nostrils flaring and fists tight, he glared at me in defiance. His demeanor made it clear that he was anything but apologetic. His sister’s cries grew louder as he huffed out his breath and kicked a toy out of his way, then turned and marched into his bedroom. I soothingly patted my daughter’s back, then gave her a storybook to keep her occupied and quietly approached my three-nager’s door. It was open, but I rapped gently on the doorframe anyway.
“Come in, Mama.” he mumbled. I sat beside him on the bed and waited quietly. “Why does she always want to do everything that I do? I wish she would just leave me alone!” he exclaimed.
“I know it seems that way, honey,” I responded. “Elle thinks that everything you do is awesome, and she wants to do the same things you do because she loves you so much. Listen, it is okay to feel frustrated and mad sometimes. God made us and our emotions, so it is okay to feel those things…but it is not okay to yell or push your sister. Or to kick toys. And it is certainly not okay to be mean to anyone.”
His little blonde head dropped. “I know, Mama.” He sighed. “Sometimes I just don’t feel like being very nice.” I ruffled his hair as I smothered a grin with my other hand and glanced away to regain my mom-face; I knew exactly what he meant. “I am sorry, Mama. I will try to be nicer to Elle next time.” He smiled, acknowledging that his world was a sunny place once again.
As much as we’d like to feign innocence, we can all relate to my son’s forced apology. We may have been quite convincing. We may have spoken eloquent words with concerned eyes and gentle tones, but if our hearts were unrepentant then our apologies were nothing more than wasted breath. Likewise, each of us can recall instances when we felt a shift in our souls and genuine contrition for our actions or thoughts. In those moments, the apology came straight from our hearts. There was no need for theatrics because we were genuinely distraught and we truly wanted to change. There is no mistaking true repentance in any age. In fact, King David of the Old Testament shared a transparent glimpse into his own repentance in Psalm 51.
David had fallen in love with a married woman…a woman married to a loyal soldier in his own army. Knowing that what he was doing was adultery, David sent for her and slept with her anyway. A short time later, David discovered that she was pregnant with his child. Desperate to save face and status, David did everything he could to cover his sin. Each of his plans failed. King David eventually staged the death of the woman’s husband, effectively murdering an innocent man to hide his own indiscretion.
When God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David and spark change in his heart, David acknowledged his sin and confessed it to the Lord. Throughout Psalm 51, we see the portrait of David’s repentance. His confession of sin…his heartfelt sorrow…his longing for relief from his guilt…his desperation to be made clean again…his loss of joy…his desire for God’s help to change and his request for restoration. We can find each of these aspects in our own hearts when we are truly repentant.
Just as my son’s attitude and posture made his own heart position obvious to me, we can be certain that we are just as transparent to God. We may be able to fool others (or even ourselves) with false apologies, but God knows our hearts even before we do. He is not so easily fooled, and His discernment is divine. As we usher in this new year, let us each beg God to open our eyes to areas in which our repentance falls flat. We are human and subject to human failure, but the One we serve is capable and desiring to remake us from the inside out!
May we echo David’s prayer: Father, we have sinned against You. Have compassion on us and clean us of our sin. You are our Judge and You are just. Create a clean heart within us. Restore to us the joy of salvation and make us willing to obey You
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