I have struggled to write this piece. I’ve written about ten different versions, discarding each one because it read like a jumbled mess of my thoughts. At one point in the last three weeks, I decided I wasn’t going to write it. However, when you feel God prompting you to explore an area of your life of which you are not proud, you have to explore, no matter how uncomfortable.
Sure, you can put this exploration off for some time, but this only leads to more intense and more obvious promptings. So, here we are. I hope my vulnerability – if it is genuine vulnerability – helps someone.
A few weeks ago, I read a passage of Scripture, which gave me pause.
The specific verse is a part of a more extended passage (verses 17-32), in which Paul describes what the character of a Christian ought to be. He tells us – essentially - that we are new creations, so we ought to act like we are. He tells us to put off our old selves (22), to renew our minds (v. 23), and put on our new self (v. 24). He then describes how our new life should differ from our old. The new actions he lists are, speak the truth (v. 25), control your anger (v. 26), and instead of being a thief, work hard (v. 28). Pretty basic stuff. Then he writes verse 29:
It hit me right between the eyes. Of course, I’ve known that gossip of any form is not an appropriate way for any Christian to behave, but when I read the passage this time, it was as if every instance of gossip came to the forefront of my memory. I felt like God was saying, "this is not good." I was uncomfortable and felt ashamed. I prayed for a few short minutes, thanking God for his mercy and asking God to help me to resist the temptation to say anything negative about anyone who wasn’t in the room.
Then, I went about my day, and at the end of the day, as I reflected on what happened, I realized that I had done it again – on more than one occasion.
Throughout the last few weeks, while having a conversation with friends or family, I wanted my words to give them grace. I didn’t want to speak ill of other people, or – worse yet – invite those around me to do the same. For some reason, it didn’t work.
There were a few occasions – small victories – in which I resisted the temptation. Overall, however, I gave in and committed this sin over and over. It wasn’t until I began writing this version of this confession that it dawned on me.
In my effort to resist sin, I had taken one critical element out of the picture: repentance. I had defaulted to action. I thought that if I merely stopped speaking ill of others, I’d simply stop speaking ill of others. For me, it was a prideful and self-obsessed attempt at being better, which can be as offensive to God (see Isaiah 64, for example) as gossip itself. When God pressed in on my sin, he wasn’t saying, “do better,” he was saying “you need me.” Though I knew Jesus’ blood was enough to save me, I wasn’t believing on him to continue sanctifying me. I forgot what repentance truly meant, which isn’t turning away from your sin, but to change your mind. Repentance isn’t an action, it is a gift from God, and what Paul might be alluding to in verse 23 of Ephesians 4.
So, I know what needs to happen. God needs to grant me repentance. I want my mind to change from being one which desires gossip to one who finds it unpalatable. The most significant action I can take is to pray for repentance. Every morning this week, I’m going to pray for God to grant me repentance in this area of my life. I cannot do this without him. Of course, there are other actions I can take – asking others for accountability, confessing, and creating visible reminders – but these are not sufficient.
Repentance is necessary, and it is a gift from God. Therefore, I’m going to be begging for it daily. I need it, and he has revealed to me just how much I need it. It is a desperate need, one that could only be satisfied by the God of the universe. So daily, I'll beg him for that gift.