She came in from playing outside, her cheeks flushed from the southern sunshine. “Please go pick up your room before dinner,” I asked. My four-year-old turned, made an angry face, with fists at her sides, “I don’t want to!” Giving her the ‘mom’ look, I started towards her. She quickly ran to her room, continuing to shout and whine.
I followed her, trying to maintain my patience while I explained that she will not speak to me like this and that picking up her toys is her responsibility.
She yelled, “SORRY! But I . . .”
And I listened to her little rant, gently corrected her attitude, and modeled an appropriate response. But I couldn’t get over how ridiculously obvious it was when she yelled SORRY at me, her tiny hands balled into fists, that she wasn’t sorry at all.
A true apology doesn’t involve screaming, anger, and definitely not a but. I know I’ve been guilty of using that but to justify my behavior with my husband, my kids, and even God.
Justifying my behavior might explain my reactions, but it doesn’t excuse crummy choices. It just makes my apology meaningless.
Because if I meant it, I would take responsibility. Someone else may have done something that was infuriating, but I had a choice. When we say sorry, but . . , we’re giving away our responsibility, like our actions were beyond our control. We’re really saying, “Sorry, but I’m Not Sorry.” Horse puckey. Lots of crappy stuff can happen that can push my emotional buttons and stress me out; I still can choose to control my response.
Watching my daughter scream sorry, but . . ., I could see her complete lack of contrition. Her tears were about the potential discipline, not sorrow. And I wondered how many times I’ve looked like that to God, praying for forgiveness, but full of excuses, with a hardened heart knowing I would probably do it again.
True repentance is a heart thing.
The word for repent in the Bible actually means to change your mind, and specifically in context, to change your mind about Jesus. When we change our mind about who Jesus is, when we BELIEVE He is Lord, our perspective changes. Suddenly, sin isn’t the exciting thing we have to do without; it’s the disgusting slime we want to wash away.
True repentance is a humble confession that Christ is Lord of my life.
Repentance then is a gift granted from God. He gives us the change of mind. We have to seek repentance, ask God to grant it to us, ask Him to change our minds about whatever we’re facing.
No wonder I struggled for years with feeling forgiven, because I wasn’t really repenting. True repentance is a humble confession that Christ is Lord of my life and asking for a change of heart which leads to different behavior. I started noticing that when I prayed for forgiveness and really meant it, I would ask for a new perspective, to change my heart, help me change my actions.
And it did. I spent years struggling with various sins and couldn’t seem to ever change. But, God changed my mind when I opened my heart. While I have a long way to go, I see the sins falling away. If Jesus is really God, and God is really real – then a lot of my perceptions and values were completely misguided.
Are you sorry? or not sorry? Are you asking for a change of mind and heart?
Jeremiah 24:7 ESV “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”
Guess what? Having a change of heart attitude works in my earthly relationships as well. My husband responds so much better when I apologize and ask him how I could have handled that better. Plus, I get a better idea of what he was thinking and feeling, changing my perspective.
And when we see with a right perspective, it is so much easier to truly change. Which comes in really handy when I have a four-year-old tempting my temper.