Penance (noun): 1. voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong. 2. doesn’t matter because I’m not Catholic and it’s not the idea I hope to express in this blog entry.

To be human, or not to be human? That is the question. But do any of us really have a choice?

I had a couple of semi-interesting conversations with a some friends this week. I say semi-interesting because they were at the very least interesting to me, maybe to them, and I have no idea how you would feel about them. I’m going to tell you anyway.

1. My friend and I were on our way home from a city that is about 50 miles from our homes-so there is time to talk. What else could we do then but dig into the deep stuff. Which really, these are the only conversations I like having. Small talk sucks. If we both have at least one of the five senses, I think there’s no point to comment on what the weather is doing. Anywho, on to the conversation. This friend of mine has been struggling with the need to be perfect, and with the idea of that need interfering with her faith in God. You know, trust is kind of a big deal when it comes to faith. Sort of can’t have one without the other. So I think we all can see the dilemma. I on the other hand am so keenly aware of the fact that I will NEVER be perfect, that perfection in itself has become a transcendent dream. Something I always feel aware of the desire to have, but can never actually grasp. By the end of this conversation, I realized that I have subconsciously, consciously, unconsciously, purposefully, accidentally reached the conclusion in my heart and mind that if I can’t be perfect, then I’m not even going to try. This brings me to conversation number two. Aren’t you excited?

2. A friend and I had some time to kill before heading to a late movie. We were at her house and she was finishing up some chores she had been meaning to get done. I, being the generous, selfless giver that I am, sat on her bed while she cleaned up. We’ve got an hour or two, what else to do but open my trap and pour out all my “problems.” In my defense, we were talking about self-betterment and what has been keeping us from pursuing things we know will set us in a better place. So, I told her this conclusion that I had come to when talking to my other friend (I know! I have two!) the night before. With this I included the fact that I had been shamelessly mad at God for the consequences of my own decisions. I asked her how this can be Christianity. If I am constantly struggling with sin, the same sin, how can I call myself a Christian? Not just call myself one, but BE a Christian? That cannot be Christianity. In my mind, if THAT was how “Christianity” would be for me, then I wasn’t really a Christian, and therefore Christian things, morals, teachings, responsibilities didn’t apply to me. I am not going to lie, this wasn’t freeing. I panicked! Everything that I have known, felt, experience, and loved my entire life was being pulled out from under me. By me!

Then she spoke, and things started to make just a little tiny bit more sense. She wasn’t easy on me either, but the truth was like a spring of fresh water in my dried up heart. First things first, she told me the fact that is was a struggle at all for me to live my life the way I have been, is Christianity. I am convicted, I do care. The fact that I keep coming back to God matters! In response to my whole ‘being mad at God and not caring thing’ she laughed! She laughed in my face! “Like I have never been mad at God?! Like I don’t get jealous and sit there and ask God why on earth He could give to others what He never can seem to give to me,” she said. Then added: she comes back. She realizes moments of weakness in her human nature provide avenues for sin. And this is inescapable this side of Heaven. But repentance is where it’s at. She recognizes her folly and asks forgiveness and thanks God that He made such an enormous sacrifice in order for her to do so!

Let me tell you, this is not new information. I go back and forth with the same ideas all the time, because I just can’t seem to get it right and keep it right. I told the friend in conversation number one, that I just need consistency. In all honesty my point in these two conversations was that it is easier to be consistently wrong than consistently pursuing righteousness. And that is very true. It is easier, but at the same time it isn’t. It is immediately easier. However, the consequences of easy sin are by no means easier than the blessings that follow the trying path of obedience. For some reason this has been so hard to get through my mind. I have let Satan tell me that I will never be good enough, and while that’s true, his lie that because of my sin I don’t deserve to be in the presence of God, is not. And guess what? That righteousness that I am so adamant about pursuing and achieving doesn’t exist! The only righteousness is that which come from Christ through His free gift of Salvation. We ain’t gonna have any righteousness if we don’t have Christ! I can’t make myself perfect and righteous and then come to God, because I can not be righteous (nor perfect) without God! All of this was brought to my attention during conversation number two. As well as the fact that we will never be able to understand God sacrificing His Son for us fickle creatures. While we would be able to give our own lives willingly for those we love, would we ever be willing to sacrifice one of our loved ones for the other? It’s incomprehensible, but that’s what God did. One Man paid the price for the lot of us, and I’m just here wallowing in my own made-up grief.

Then I heard this poem. That I have heard plenty of times before, but have never understood. And maybe that is because I didn’t know before a few years ago what it was like to truly be completely and honestly devastated with myself and with the action Jesus took on the cross so that I wouldn’t have to be.

But believe me when I say I understand it now. Shine down the light of comprehension because I want to dance in it, and bow in it, and revel in it. I want to repent. I want to laugh in the face of penance and shove it in the mud. I want Satan to know his dirty lies and tricks have no power against the truth and authority of God. And guess what? All of this is in my life. God is in my life even though I was among the scoffers at His son’s brutal death. I was there whispering lies that I had come to believe, and ignoring the pain of the Son and the Father. I say was there because I might as well have been. I mean how dare I give up on life when He gave up so much for me to have it! So, yes how dare I, now instead of willingly getting myself into more trouble because I am such a terrible human being, I need to go seek Jesus, repent, and let Him fill up my brain with truth and mercies. Because even after all I have done and failed to do, He wants me to be on the right path even more that I want to be. Now that is unconditional love.

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