Doing It Afraid 6: Repentance

Posted on 12 Jan 2012 in Dream, Reveal | 0 comments

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
― Albert Einstein

This blog is actually more of a reflection on this blog by Julien Smith called “The Complete Guide to Snapping the @#$% Out of It

Most of us, when we think of repentance have some mental image which involves groveling, crying out, confessing horrific deeds.

And the New Year is normally the world-side season of this kind of repentance.

We talk about all our bad habits, our not-so-great habits, and the habits that we wish we had. We talk about eating right, exercising more, quitting smoking, reading more books, etc etc etc. And most of the time we really mean it. Even if we’re not people of faith, we normally see the New Year as an opportunity to start over, to start from scratch. But the point that Julien makes that I really love is that we never actually do just that.

We never actually START OVER. We don’t START from SCRATCH.

We think that if we just do our previously established failed behaviors ‘just a little bit harder’ – that will somehow *this time* translate into different results. And if we agree with Einstein (which I do), that’s insanity.

But most of us will try again, and spend the money on the gym membership that we *really will* use this time, or we buy the ‘skim’ milk for a few weeks, thinking it will taste the same in our morning coffee (which, by the way, it won’t).

How often do you use this season to really reflect on those thought processes that kept you from achieving it last year?

For the first time, I made a resolution last year that I can walk into the New Year claiming to have accomplished.

When I began 2011, I was a smoker. I smoked on average a pack every 2-3 days. Last year, for New Years, I tried to quit. I got the nicotine mints, the inhaler, the groupon for hypnotherapy or the electronic cigarettes (which I actually recommend for anyone trying to quit). And I thought, Ah Sure, this will be the year! I’m gonna do it this time for sure!

And I was smoking again in about a day. I hadn’t actually started over. I hadn’t actually gone back to the beginning to figure out what I was thinking and believing that brought me to smoking.

In Romans 12, Paul urges believers (Katie paraphrase):

I encourage you then, brothers and sisters, in light of God’s desire to be awesome towards you, to present your whole self (both good and bad) as a living (not dead) sacrifice. Don’t get stuck in the way the world approaches things or thinks about things, but rather repent and think about things in a different way, being transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may be able to more clearly see the awesome purpose and destiny you are being called to live out.

I know, I’ve taken a lot of liberties with my translation… but this is the heart of this passage. Paul is saying that repentance isn’t an issue of who GROVELS more, but an issue of setting my own control and thought process on the altar of the Divine. Instead of doing our own thing just that bit harder, we admit that we might not understand, that we might have gotten it wrong somewhere, and that we need help.

Repentance isn’t about groveling. It’s about metanoia or being transformed from the inside out. Thinking differently about the situation.

When I finally returned to being a non-smoker (starting over, from scratch), I had already tried the whole independent willpower thing. Trying harder, committing more. I had even done all this heavy self-discovery of the best ways to do it, and all the emotional stuff that was keeping me smoking. But I had to face even deeper untruths and misinformed thinking when I finally repented.

It’s a matter of willpower.
I started this, I have to finish it.
This is my dirty habit, I don’t want to burden anyone else.
I’m strong enough, and if I can’t do it, it’s because I’m not ready.
Smoking makes me accessible to people in ways that others aren’t.
My smoke breaks are my quiet reflection time.

All of these were so deeply ingrained in my brain, and I couldn’t see a way to think differently. Until I had people begin to speak the truth over me. I invited friends into the story. I welcomed my community – first my fitness trainer, then my roommate and my husband, then my close friends – to speak into those lies and remind me of the truths that needed to be thought instead:

It’s a matter of Grace and the Divine’s awesomeness, not my strength.
It is not an issue of ‘finishing,’ but beginning again as a non-smoker.
I am in a community that will help me.
I do not have to be strong on my own, because I have people who will hold me when I fail.
I will always be the person that people can feel safe with – regardless of whether or not I smoke.
My quiet time with the Divine can be anywhere and anytime – I don’t need smoke to set boundaries that I can make on my own.

Now that I’ve given myself the time and support to believe these truths, I don’t even want to smoke anymore.

I won’t lie, the first week was as close to hell as I can imagine. The first three days, I used the electronic cigarettes in order to stave off the nicotine addiction withdrawal while my body when through the withdrawals from the chemicals (which was worse than the nicotine withdrawal, btw). Tears, sweat, anger, rage, sorrow and more raged through me. Then off the nicotine, and I wanted to crawl under the covers and cry and curl up into a ball and disappear. But through it all, my friends kept speaking truth over me. Even when I smoked on day 1, 2, and 3, my friends cheered me on for only having one. They refrained from judgment or condemnation and spoke life instead.

So what is it this year that you want to make a resolution about?

Maybe this year, you should consider repentance instead of resolution. Think differently, and invite people to participate in your process, substituting truth for any lies you might believe about yourself or the situation.

What is the one change that you’d like to see in yourself this year? Why hasn’t it worked before?

Who can you invite into your process that will encourage, help and sustain you without judgment or condemnation?

How can you encourage yourself to pursue the dream for this year that you long to see realized?