01 October 2012

Reflections on: Repentance

I'm using this picture because it's bright and yellow and it's now October, when that color abounds. I have not read and can therefore neither endorse nor disagree with the post or site from which it originated.

We use the imagery of the U-turn a lot when we talk about repentance. That's either brilliant or troubling, depending on how you look at it.

While in my childhood I had a long, long period of confusion about U-turn signs. I assumed, in my literal mind, that a U-turn sign implied the necessity to turn around. Not that it was an optional thing available in certain times and places, but that whenever the sign appeared it was mandatory you turn your little car around and drive the other direction.

This was especially confusing to me because I saw these signs on the road often while traveling around town with my mother, and she never turned around at those places. Ever. Until I was almost eight years old I thought my mother was a major traffic violator because she didn't follow the road signs. Every time she'd pass a U-turn sign and keep on driving straight down the road I would discretely look around for a police car, hoping that no one had witnessed her blatant violation of (what I thought was) the law.

I don't know why I didn't just ask her about it, but whatever.

This is why the idea of correlating a U-turn sign with repentance intrigues me.

Certainly there are things which necessitate immediate confession, restitution, desertion, and absolution (repentance, in a nutshell). I would consider these things to be any offense that affects people other than the actor--betrayal, violence, theft, far-reaching falsehoods, gossip, and the like.

Then there are the things that could be classified as 'victimless sins'. These are things the require a more personal interpretation and depend heavily on levels of knowledge and realms of belief. Uncharitable thought, masturbation, destructively low self esteem, use of profanity, ingestion of certain substances (whether that's heroin or marijuana or Everclear or coffee or fast food or factory-raised animals or GMO vegetables), consensual sex between adults who have not promised fidelity elsewhere, etc [my personal thoughts on which of the above are actually sins that need repentance: probably, no, yes, no, depends, and depends-but-probably-not-usually]. Arguments can be made about whether any of these things are truly victimless, but that gets into all sorts of skeezy sophistry I'm not interested in entertaining.

I like the U-turn analogy for things like this. There are certain times when it is possible and permitted to repent of these things. But there are also certain times when dwelling on any of these things and seeking to repent of them might be self-destructive (like maybe your focus should be elsewhere, focused on staying on the road perhaps). But even when the opportunity presents itself, it's optional. You can turn around, see if heading the opposite direction will take you somewhere better, but if you think holding the route will be okay enough or you want to be headed in that direction--that's okay too.



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