"Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, 'I have sinned against the LORD you God and against you. Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me.'" Exodus 10: 16-17
Have you ever found yourself saying these words:
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!!!
This is the repeated mantra of those of us who find ourselves dealing with the consequences of our poor choices, greed, selfishness, pride or "prone to accident" behavior--our SIN.
The consequences can lead us to the tent of regret or the tent of true repentance.
Regret is a fairly easy tent to be in. Regret finds itself bunking with self pity and despair. It thinks with 20/20 hindsight about how, perhaps, it could have done something differently. It invites blame to join and lounge around with worry. Regret stems from discomfort with the consequences of sin. Though regret is a fairly easy tent to be in, it is in a camp whose days are long and unproductive.
The tent of true repentance is a whole other place to be. True repentance demands
"conviction of sin, sorrow for sin, confession and renunciation of sin, and longing for grace." [Evangelical Catechism, 1929]
Conviction of sin implies recognition and acceptance of one's part in the sin. It is a heart stabbing realization of the reality of one's own sinfulness.
Sorrow for sin is the deep sadness and mourning over one's participation in something that is against God's will. It is a tearful grieving over the loss of relationship with God and with neighbor.
Confession of sin is agreeing with God; it is the passionate declaration and acceptance of the burden and responsibility for the wrong done or the good left undone.
Renunciation of sin implies a no excuse stance; a crucifying of the evil done, a running away from the sin.
Longing for grace is a position of humility, knowing forgiveness is always a gift, not an entitlement or right. It calls forth a desire to amend one's ways only by the help of the benefactor, the forgiver.
Pharaoh lived in the tent of regret. He was sorry for the destruction around him. It made him uncomfortable and his life miserable. But his regret did not allow him to walk into the tent of true repentance. He still wanted to be in control. He still wanted to bargain. He still wanted to keep some of his power. He still wanted to have his way.
The tent of regret is the tent of the retreating army. There you find excuses, curses, bitterness and resentment. There is a "get even" stench which can become suffocating.
The tent of true repentance is the tent of the sorely wounded, those who realize they are in great need. Only the Great Physician can heal them. They bring nothing to the operating table but their sorrow and grief. They have no money, they have no status, they have no hope, unless...unless Grace nurses them back to life.
The tent of regret stinks with unwashed feet.
The tent of true repentance invites the flinging open of the windows of the heart to let the Holy Wind of the Spirit enter to clear the air.
As the Great Physician wrestles through the night with the Pharaoh, the tent of regret experiences more and more death.
As the Great Physician wrestles through the night with the Pharaoh, the tent of true repentance keeps vigil, eats lamb and unleaven bread and waits...