Saturday, November 15, 2014

Confession Must Be Coupled with Repentance.

I recently went on a short get-away. My best friend and adopted brother from my first foray into college was celebrating his birthday, and I was going to take the opportunity before the holiday season set in to go and celebrate with him.

My wife suggested that while I was there I take the opportunity to go back to Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

There have been times when I've mentioned this place before, usually in a context that isn't quite pleasant. That has much to do with my unceremonious dismissal from the college, a place I loved, a place I wanted to be part of, a place I know for certain I was called to.

It has been ten years since I was a student there, and so many things are different. Stepping back onto the campus unleashed a flood of conflicting emotions, but during my visit I kept hearing a familiar voice say to me "You have to make things right."

I looked at the website to see who was still there who would have remembered me from ten years ago. There weren't many left, but there were two. And of the two, there was one I felt compelled to "make things right" with.

The School of Theology and Philosophy was in the same place I remembered it was. It didn't look like their main office had really changed all that much. I asked the receptionist if that professor was in, and she said that she was, but that she was on her way to class, and the rest of her morning and a good portion of her afternoon was taken up with various meetings. I did however get to see this professor on her way to class, and said hi.

As it was Wednesday (a chapel day) when I visited, I thought perhaps I could sit in on the chapel service. It just happened to be the start of the yearly chapel series on prayer, and the speaker emphasized that God embraces prayer that is honest, where our pretenses are dropped, and where we don't think we need to have everything figured out. That was definitely a place where I knew I was just being there.

A short time later I broke down, and emailed this professor of mine, and confessed the mistakes I made and the attitude of arrogance I carried with me; I confessed that I refused her counsel and dismissed her attempts to get through to me. I also said that in the ten years since I was a student, I graduated from Houghton College and became a Free Methodist pastor. I also said that I wished I could have met with her and told her all this in person, but as it was getting to the end of the day I didn't know if she could even meet with me. Just a few minutes after I emailed her I got a response back saying she would meet with me.

In the time while I was waiting, I contacted another friend of mine who just happens to have a couple jobs on campus. We were in the same freshman class and took a trip to Cedar Point as part of our class retreat. She's the only person to tell me her life story in five minutes or less.

As we were talking, she said that she too had some mixed feelings about coming back to MVNU, though they were of a bit of a different nature than mine were. But despite that, she just had this confidence that God led her back and she was going to make the most of it. That really spoke truth to me, as I had cut off all formal ties to MVNU. I still occasionally get alumni stuff from them, but not having graduated there, and leaving in the manner I did, I never felt any desire or need to go back. It was a part of my life I wanted to forget. But talking with my friend, I was reminded that even in the midst of my troubles, there still was good that came out it.

The time came to meet with my professor. We got caught up, mentioned everything that had changed in ten years. She told me about the professors who had come and gone in the school of theology and philosophy. I told her how I met my wife and became a pastor. And then we got to the reason why I wanted to meet with her.

I can't tell you how absolutely gracious she was. I'm probably not the first student she's seen come and go, who was too arrogant coming into the college setting and not wanting to take or accept instruction. I probably wasn't going to be the last either. But she reminded me that God uses times like that to mature and perfect us. We may not always know the reasons why we experience those things then, and it may be several years, if ever, before we do.

At that moment I felt such a release from a burden that wrapped itself around me for ten years. It had become such a part of my life that after awhile I didn't even notice it was still there.

It would have been easy enough to simply write the email and say sorry for the wrong I did ten years ago. I think we tend to take the simplest path to get ourselves off the hook as quickly as we can and minimize the severity of the consequences we're going to face.

Now it made no difference from the standpoint of my relationship to MVNU, I wasn't go to be reinstated into classes. But, it had everything to do with my change in attitude that I now have concerning my first college. That's what confession with true repentance does. It frees us, it releases us from attitudes that only seek to drive a wedge between us and God. If we say we're sorry and there's no turning away from the sin, if it doesn't disgust us and cause us to move away from it as quickly as possible, then we're just fooling ourselves, we're being inauthentic toward God, toward others, and toward ourselves.

As a people who embrace God's holiness as the standard of living, not being able to live authentically keeps us from experiencing God's holiness. I know something in me changed. I'm grateful for that.

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