(From Kimberlee Conway Ireton, Season of darkness [Why Lent?], The Christian Century, March 10, 2009, at 10-11:)
Unfortunately, the word repentance often leaves a bad taste in people's mouths and conjures up images of self-flagellation, both literal and figurative. I used to think of repentance this way.
As an adolescent, I thought it meant reciting unhealthy mantras to convince myself of my own unworthiness (as if I needed to be convinced). As a young adult, I rejected repentance altogether, thinking it damaging to my fragile sense of self-worth.
And then, the summer I turned 30, I had my first experience of true repentance.
Every day for an entire month, as I journaled, prayed and read the lectionary, God peeled away layers of myself. For the first time, I saw envy, despair and self-pity not as personality quirks, but as sins.
I knew, more deeply than I'd ever known, that I had failed — failed to love my friends, my husband, my son, myself; failed to pray when I had said I would; failed to notice the good gift that was my life. Instead, I had complained and whined and been ungrateful and ungracious. I felt deeply convicted of my sin.
But I did not feel despair. In fact, I felt freedom — and joy. I cried a lot, but they were tears of sorrow and gratitude. ...
(Paragraphing edited, emphasis in original.)