Continuing our weekly reflection on Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, this week we are looking at chapter 2: Repentance. His text is Psalm 120. It is not, as he says, a pretty psalm full of hope and thanksgiving and such. It is harsh, borderline abrasive. It seems whiny and exasperated. So, Peterson takes not just the words, but also the mood I think and hears in it a beginning point for the journey of discipleship. That beginning point, he says near the end of the chapter, is repentance: “The usual biblical word describing the no we say to the world’s lies and the yes we say to God’s truth is repentance. It is always and everywhere the first word in the Christian life.”
But in order to say ‘no’ to the world and ‘yes’ to God, we must be fed up with what the world offers us: “A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way… A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.”
Reflecting on the significance of this word in my own life, the breaking points I’ve tended to hit that have pressed me further in the life of discipleship and in the ongoing work of conversion in the Christian life, is when I’ve been fed up with my own spiritual mediocrity. When I’ve succombed to the world’s dulling effects on my ability to hear and respond to God’s fullest and best calling and provision for me, and when the light of Christ illumines that sobering truth, that is when I’m inspired to make a change and to go to a new level in faith.
A sentence that was lifted up by one of the men in my studies is a worthwhile prayer for us: “Rescue me from the person who tells me of life and omits Christ, who is wise in the ways of the world and ignores the movement of the Spirit.” Amen indeed–rescue me from the influence of that person, rescue me from becoming that person!