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There are many obstacles to conversion. One of them is the difficulty of admitting even to ourselves that we may have been sinning or doing something stupid for a long, long time. Since this is a hard pill to swallow, we put up tremendous defences.
One day I was spinning wool in the poustinia. After you have spun two balls of single yarn, you ply them together to make the two-ply yarn. Well, I was happily plying away but things weren’t going too smoothly. No matter. Perhaps the wheel needed oil or something. I barged ahead.
But the spinning kept getting harder and harder to do. When I had almost completed the whole ball, I suddenly realized what was wrong. I had plied the yarn in reverse!
That was my sudden moment of “enlightenment,” the moment when I realized that I’d been doing it all wrong! Not only that but now to “get it right” I would have to go through a long, messy process. I would have to unravel the yarn and start all over again.
This initial realization was very painful; I could hardly get up the energy to begin again. And as I did, the wool went all over the poustinia—on the rafters and the floor; it looked like a huge spider web.
But once I accepted the truth that I had done something stupid, it got easier and easier. Then at last, as I approached the final rewinding, I had a great sense of joy and gratitude.
It takes a great deal of humility to face the truth of what we see. Perhaps the older we get, the harder it is.
And our long-standing defects are the hardest to uncover and repent of. We need to fight the tendency to deny what we see, to make believe it’s not as bad as we think. It probably is as bad as we think!
At this point, temptations can rear their heads. Discouragement: “If I’ve been wrong in this area, maybe my whole life is one big mistake.” Sadness: “All my efforts have been wasted. There’s no sense in trying any more.” Self-pity: “I’ll never be able to live right.” These are lies and we need to renounce them.
And this is an important moment of decision. We’re either going to admit our blindness and seek change, or we’re going to cover up what we see and continue on as if nothing had been revealed to us.
It was very difficult for me to start unravelling that dumb yarn. “All that time wasted!” But as I proceeded, joy was restored.
For there is joy, though usually not at first, in facing reality and doing something about it. If we break something, we can pick up the pieces. If we make a mistake, we can admit it and ask forgiveness.
And, if we discover that we’ve been sinful or immature or childish in some area of our life for a long, long time, the really mature and realistic and life-giving thing to do is admit it and unravel the results as best we can.
That’s what repentance is—admitting that we have been traveling down the wrong road—like when we’re out driving and we discover that we’ve gone 200 miles in the wrong direction.
Facing long-standing faults is very hard, and it takes a great grace and a big heart to repent. If you do, you will know both the pain of having wasted many years and the joy of finally living in the light.