(I’m going to talk about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Four Fists again today, so if you didn’t read it last time, please take a moment to go read it now.)
I’ve been pondering repentance lately, and I’ve looked at my own journey to salvation in particular. Prior to being born again, there were plenty of times when I was remorseful for things that I did, but I didn’t change. And there were other times when I made genuine changes in my life. What was the difference? Believe it or not, the difference between remorse and genuine repentance is the same now as it was then: whether or not I see me in reality.
When I See Me as Others Do
The brilliance of Fitzgerald’s character, Samuel Meredith, is that he saw himself as his assailants saw him. What’s more, he recognized the difference between his self-image born of pride and the ugly truth of his actual character when confronted with it. It’s one thing to mentally assent to a truth that doesn’t much matter to me, but it’s another thing entirely when the truth directly assaults a cherished belief about my own righteous character. Will I choose to see that truth? Will I receive that reality into my heart, or will I give a shallow nod and write it off as a misunderstanding or glitch in behavior and not a character deficiency?
Every instance of genuine repentance in my life has been born of seeing myself as I truly am. And often that means choosing to see myself as others see me. It is when I see myself in all Reality that it becomes unbearable to remain unchanged.
When I See Me as God Does
When I saw myself as God saw me – with a big assist from the Shulamite body – it was an agony unparalleled with almost anything else. I saw who I was and what I’d done to everyone I’d ever known. Like Fitzgerald observed so brilliantly, “The situation had miraculously and entirely changed—a moment before Samuel had seemed to himself heroic; now he seemed the cad…” The entire world changed in short order, because everything that I thought I knew was immediately thrown into doubt. If I was wrong about myself, wasn’t it likely that I was wrong about everyone and everything else—most especially God?
God set things in order to perfectly fit His creation. We forgive only as deeply as we see our own need to be forgiven. And we repent only as thoroughly as we see ourselves in the shining Light of Truth. Until we experience the full, unbearable darkness of who we are, we will never cry out with our whole hearts for our Savior to come in, and we most certainly will have no need of a Lord.
To See is Key
To see me as God sees me is the key to being free. I spent most of my life tormented by the truth of who I was, resisting the Light because I knew what I deserved and I was quite sure that I was going to get it. Instead, I found that to see myself in all Reality was to see who God really is, too. I’ve never been so frightened in all my life by what I glimpsed of Him! And that was the beginning of wisdom, the door to salvation, and the key to freedom from the chains of guilt and shame and regret that held me fast.
The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light.
Matthew 6:22 AMP