Repentance. By Mariel Wangsgard, Blogger at “Or so she says…”
When people think about repentance, they might think, “Ick, that's a depressing word.” Have you ever thought that? I know that I have.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said it perfectly: "Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace. Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration."
It’s Satan who wants us to think that repentance involves things like interrogation, public humiliation, or intense suffering. Who wouldn’t want to avoid that? He doesn't want us to repent because he doesn't want us to be happy or to return to live with our Father in Heaven. He doesn't love us. The truth is, repentance is what relieves us from our suffering, guilt, and fear caused by sin. God commands us to repent because He loves us. He wants us to be happy, to live with Him again, and to make the needed progress here on earth.
Growing up, I didn’t include much repentance in my prayers. I figured that I didn’t do anything dreadfully terrible in the day, so my mind immediately went to thanking God for my blessings and asking for more. How immature that was! I failed to acknowledge my impatience, the unkind thoughts, my pride, and a myriad of other un-Christlike behaviors. As I’ve come closer to my Heavenly Father, I’ve realized just how far away I am from Him and how badly I want to be close to Him. I need Him so much in my life. There’s an endless amount of small things to repent of. Big or small, it’s still wrong. It was never said that only some of us would need to repent; it is said that we all need to repent. There's not a day that goes by that I shouldn't take the time to apologize for my sins—to God and those I've offended—and do all I can to improve myself and make things right.
President Henry B. Eyring said: "I hope a day doesn’t begin or end that you don’t consider whether something you did might have offended the Holy Ghost or made it harder for the Spirit to influence you. That is what it means to me to have a repentant heart.”
Several years back, I purchased some brand-new dress shoes, the kind you would wear without socks. I have this one particular toe that isn't perfectly straight, and of course this new shoe rubbed a small piece of skin off the top of that toe. It didn't seem like a big deal, as it had happened several times before. I just slapped a bandage over it and slipped the shoes back on. The next morning, I woke up with my foot feeling really achy. By the end of the day, there was a pink line running from my sore toe all the way up to the top of my leg. It was pretty scary! That little-bitty, insignificant scrape had quickly become one of the worst infections I have ever experienced in my life. My foot and leg were in so much pain that I ended up being in bed for days. My family came to visit me with treats; friends were calling to check on me. It was a little embarrassing. I couldn't believe that something so small, like a scrape on my toe, could fester and become something so big. I had to be on antibiotics for three months to finally kick that infection. It was crazy. Needless to say, I never wore those shoes again!
I have since thought about how that experience is similar to our need to resolve our sins, big and small. Just like our physical body requires our attention and care, so does our spirit. I thought the scrape on my toe wasn't a big deal and that I could just overlook it. But that wasn't the case at all. My toe needed to be cleaned and treated continuously until the infection was completely out of my body. When we sin, our spirit needs our attention, even if we consider the sin to be "small." When we don't acknowledge our sins, they will fester, grow, and eventually cause serious damage to our lives. We need to follow the appropriate steps to fully repent, which will heal our spirit and bring us closer to God. (Click here to learn more about repentance, including how to properly repent.)
I love this quote by Hugh Nibley: "Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting he is a righteous man. There is hope for him. And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man. The difference is which way you are facing. The man on the top of the stairs facing down is much worse off than the man on the bottom step who is facing up. The direction we are facing, that is repentance; and that is what determines whether we are good or bad."
Just like the quote, we need to always be "looking up the stairs." We all have to repent, every day. Our decision to repent and the process of it may be painful, but it brings complete joy and saves us from even more pain that comes later in life and on Judgment Day.
I know that the Savior is anxious for us to repent. He doesn’t want us to feel what He felt when He suffered for our sins. He loves us so much. I am so thankful for the opportunity to repent. I need that gift so much and so often in my life.
Repentance isn't a bad word. It's the best word!
Mariel Wangsgard is the owner/editor of the blog ' Or so she says... ', promoting motherhood, great ideas, good food, faith, and family values. She's a homeschooler, mother of six, and resides in Utah.