Christianity has a lot to say about repentance. After all, this is the message of Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry. Repent, for the Kingdom of God has drawn near, he says right there in Matthew. Repent and believe in the good news, he says in Mark. Turn around and go the other way, the way toward God, the way away from darkness.

We (post)modern people are a bit leery of repentance, though - at least some of us are. We don't want to get too close to self-loathing, for instance, and self-flagellation and all. Remember poor Hazel Motes in his barbed wire shirt blinding himself with lye. And there's all that Calvinistic miserable worm stuff - we're depraved. (Yuck.) We need some self-esteem and feeling of self-worth (God made us good, after all) - and yet of course that can go over into self-importance and a blindness to our own falling short. And so we wrestle with the idea of repentance; at least I do.

But here's how it seems to work for me. There are times when I know I am wrong and I know I need to make restitution or at least admit the error of my ways and pledge to do better. And then I have to make good on that. Such is repentance. It's hard. It may take me a very long time to get to that place. It is difficult to admit fault, admit messing things up. One wants to be recognized for not having meant to do wrong. One perhaps wants to point out the speck in the eye of another (and ignore the log in one's own). Just the thought of repentance can bring on the tears, sometimes in buckets. But this is helpful in my experience. The tears help bring me away from my pride and rigidity and into a place of at least being willing to consider that I am in the wrong and must do differently. The tears are a release of the pent-up hostility that cascades into tears of helplessness. It may take a lot of tears.

First are the tears of denial and anger. Not my fault, he made me do it, I was baited, I didn't know, she's stupid and wrong or just doesn't understand. Then the tears of remorse. OK, maybe I am being too rigid which quickly slides into how could I be so wrong? How could I hurt someone I love? How could I have been so horrible? And then, one hopes, the tears of relief. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to but I see that I hurt you. I see that I am wrong. I see that I need to do differently. Thank you for giving me another chance. Oh, sweet relief.

This has, in my opinion, nothing to do with depravity or being fallen. It's being human. The move from recognizing wrong to repentant to restoration is all of a piece just as the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension is all of a piece.

We call it "repentance" but it needs all three parts.