Growing up, I don’t think I liked the idea of repentance very much. If I had to repent, it meant that I had done something wrong or bad, and I didn’t want to admit to it or face it. I didn’t like to feel bad, and from my limited understanding, that’s what repentance was.
It wasn’t until I was older that I learned a different – and much more accurate – definition of repentance. It actually means to turn to God. Learning this definition helped me realize that God is much more concerned with us changing and progressing to become more like Him than He is with us going through a checklist.
This also helped me realize that God is infinitely patient with us. Because He’s more concerned with us progressing than He is with us doing everything exactly perfect every time, He has to be patient. We can’t progress in giant leaps and bounds overnight; we progress inch by inch or even centimeter by centimeter. But He chooses to give us that time and opportunity to progress in tiny increments because He knows that it will change us for our ultimate good.
Rather than fearing or dreading repentance, let’s look at it as a gift. Repentance isn’t a sign that we are awful people. The fact is, none of us is perfect, we all make mistakes, and we need the chance to try again and improve.
That’s why we chose to follow our Father in Heaven in the pre-earth life. We wanted to have agency the way God intended us to, but with agency came the fact that we would not be perfect – and if we weren’t clean/holy, we couldn’t be with God anymore. So when God presented us with our Savior, Jesus Christ, to perform the Atonement for us, we knew we’d have a chance to return again.
Repentance is literally our key to returning to our God. It is a gift from Christ through His Atonement to make sure it is possible for us to have agency and to grow and progress without being permanently lost. So let’s embrace this gift! It’s literally one of the greatest gifts God has or ever will give to us.
A Freedom Sweet
In my experience, repentance isn’t easy. That might be part of why people don’t always have a positive view of it. But the results are always, always worth it. My favorite example and explanation of this is from Alma when he talked about his repentance:
16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!Alma 36:16-20
Is it difficult to truly repent? Absolutely. But once you’ve experienced the incredible joy that comes as a result of repentance, you want to keep doing it the rest of your life.
In my own experience, I’ve written this poem about repentance that I’d like to share:
A freedom sweet brushes my lips as anger fades and love increases. Gentle stirrings of heartstrings restore peace, humility, and the fact of my weakness. Where before raged mist suffocating as ash and grudges fought excuses in soul-rocking earthquakes - all remaining rests in harrowed healing. Grace binds - no restriction but a cure bursting from heaven in light of my faithful turn.
Repentance is truly a beautiful experience. This week, think about how it has helped you and see if you can find ways to appreciate and love repentance more. You’ll love seeing how your perspective can change!