Mrs. Enzor was my 4th grade Sunday School teacher. Even now, the room she taught in is easy for me to navigate with my memory as my guide. She was the pastor’s wife. He had already baptized me and then she taught me one of those lessons I still rely on.
I can’t remember the passage, but the subject was repentance. She stood us up and had us march. And then we had to make an “about face” and turn and go in the opposite direction.
“That is repentance,” she said. It was a turning from the sinful direction we were heading and walking toward Jesus.
The memory still moves me. But what made it stick was Marty McFly.
All of us wanted a skateboard after seeing the first Back to the Future movie. And my friends and I all got one. Mine was a thing of beauty and I took it everywhere.
Out in the church parking lot, I learned my first move— a 180.
A 180 is when you are riding in one direction and then you put your weight on the back of the board and spin the board around and skate in the opposite direction. It’s the first move you have to learn. Everything else builds on that move. I can remember connecting those 180s to that indelible lesson on repentance.
When the prophet Joel preaches to the people of God, they are suffering from a plague of locusts. Their crops are being destroyed. Their misery runs deep. They are desperate for help. And where does Joel think they need to start? Repentance. He calls them to do a 180 and return to Yahweh. You get the idea that the loss of crops isn’t their biggest problem.
In Mark 1, Jesus begins His ministry by announcing that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. His audience is a people waiting on a King. They were living under the thumb of Rome, waiting to be set free. And what does Jesus call His hearers to do? “Repent and believe the gospel.” He says they need to start with a 180. They need to turn around. Essentially, Jesus says the same thing as Joel: “Return to me, the LORD.” Rome is not their biggest problem.
Both groups were given a call to repent in the midst of difficult circumstances. Why? The very least we can say is God wanted them to see that their sins against Him were a bigger problem than their circumstances.
Historically, Lent is the season when Christians look forward to the cross and celebrate that Christ gave His life to address our biggest problem— sin. During this season it is helpful to start with repentance and to build on it, regardless of our circumstances.
Right now, your life may be filled with real disappointment and hardship. Maybe loneliness marks your days. Maybe your marriage is not what you thought it would be. Maybe you are facing real dangers. Maybe even death is on the horizon. The call to repent of our regular turning away from God can be the beginning of seeing that our greatest problem has already been dealt a final blow. And in this we find immeasurable, eternal comfort.
Written By Matthew B. Redmond