There’s a story that goes around from time to time and grabs hold of human hearts. It’s a short story and goes like this. You are God’s child, but if you step out of line, you will have to repent, and make it a good heartfelt repentance, before God will forgive you. Your prayers will not be answered until you repent, because God doesn’t hear you, doesn’t hear those cries of pain or grief, until you say the words he wants you to say. Your relationship with him will be broken until you repent. And you better hope you don’t die before your repent, because, well, yeah, you know how THAT story ends.
But repentance, according to this story, means more than saying “I’m sorry.” First, you have to really mean it. You can’t be saying “I’m sorry” and still be thinking about the next time you take a bite of that forbidden apple. That doesn’t count. It means promising to be a good boy or girl. It means saying no to temptation. Not just saying you’ll say no, but actually saying no. It means strict obedience. It means sticking by the rules, because you know what those rules are. He has told you what the rules are.
I mean, really???
I’m here to tell you, child of God, that the story is a lie.
Stay with me here for a minute.
When my daughter was about seven, she was playing with some neighborhood kids. I told her it was time to come inside, and of course she balked. She always balked. She was strong-willed (still is), and I always knew I’d have an argument. This day wasn’t any different. I said time to come in, and she remained seated on the grass with her friends. They were under her bedroom window so I went to the window to tell her again.
I overheard her say, “My mom is such a bitch.”
In our house, that was a big transgression. Not only the curse word but against her mother. Plus she hadn’t come in when I told her sternly to come in. Two transgressions right there. That would take a lot of repenting, right?
Then she fell down. Scraped her knees pretty severely and came running inside. She was sobbing and bleeding. She needed some bandages, some comfort and a big hug.
What did I do? Did I shake my finger in her face and say, “Not until you say you’re sorry”? Did I not hear her cries because she had “sinned”? Did I not listen because she hadn’t said the right words?
Of course not. I washed, I bandaged, I kissed, I hugged. In short, I loved my child. Her anger at me didn’t change my love for her. I’m bigger than that. I can handle that. Yep, even when her anger at me means she does something I don’t like or something that I know isn’t good for her. I love her. I would never turn her away.
And she loves me. She may wander, she may stray, she may call me a bitch. But when she was hurt, love propelled her into my arms. Without any trepidation or fear. She knew without any doubt that I would not turn her away.
THAT is God. That is the all-encompassing, ever-seeking, open-armed God. He doesn’t wait for you to say you’re sorry. He doesn’t pull out the scale and weigh how sorry you really are. He doesn’t hold back his love for you.
You remain, and forever will remain, his child.