Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lent Day 30 - Hide your face from my sins

When my children were younger they would often ask me to turn around when they wanted to do something that they didn’t want me to know about. My son was especially prone to this very direct form of parental evasion. “Dad, could you please turn around for a minute.” “Why?” “No reason, just turn around.” As I turned around, I could usually spot him doing something out of the corner of my eye that he had already been instructed not to do, like picking his nose. As he’s grown older, he’s learned better forms of dodging his father’s gaze.

Old habits die hard for all of us, though. How many adults still practice this childish behavior when it comes to seeking forgiveness from God? We pray God, please forgive me for what I’ve done, or sometimes even, for what I am about to do! We may even quote a scripture, like Psalm 51:9, “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquity.” What we mean, of course, is God, please don’t look at me right now while I do what I want to do even though I know it’s not what you want me to do. What we want isn’t forgiveness but for God to feign ignorance of our transgressions.

True repentance looks different from that. The truly repentant heart desires not only to be set free from the consequences of sin, but even more so, to actually be set free from sinning. Look at the next few verses of Psalm 51. David doesn’t just want God to hide his face from David’s sins; he wants God to set him free from sinning. Verse ten continues, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David wants his heart to be pure. Far from wanting God to turn around and avert his gaze, David longs to be assured of God’s attention and presence. “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” God’s attention and gaze provide David with both the ability and motivation to do what is right.

The next time you seek God’s forgiveness, remember, forgiveness isn’t about God pretending to be ignorant about our sins. True forgiveness is about God seeing our sins and doing something about it, namely, setting us free from both the stain of our past sins and the slavery of future sinning.

 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting – Psalm 139:23-24.

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