And immediately, the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75)
I made a decision recently to go against God and now I am choked with thorns and have had to repent. How does one properly repent for all that he has done? Better yet, how does one repent when he has gone off the deep end and sits at the bottom of the abyss, looking up at the towering and brilliant cliff from which he has just leaped?
Indeed, my latest apostasy would give the young St. Peter, Chief of the Apostles, a run for his money. (From previous posts, many of you could have seen that from this site.) A couple of months ago, I began to grow tired of church and all the time I was putting into it. I began to complain, and think ill thoughts of the church and the clergy, and the traditions, and the rules, and eventually, the Bible itself and religion in general. I dropped out of most of my church activities and subsequently fell into my worst behaviors. Ashamed, I refused to go back to church to repent. I rebelled instead. I began to explore going back to my life as an agnostic and hung out a shingle that said, “Under New Management: Me.”
Sounds good, except that living under a Me-Management program would prove dangerous, costly, and unmanageable. After a few months of heady rebellion and contumacy, I nearly lost it all. Ultra-addictive and destructive behaviors came back and saw me take a very quick plunge to a point lower than I had gone before. The cackles of the devil and his minions were heard everywhere.
Flash forward to last week. I walked out of the city, the part of the city that’s dangerous and decrepit, weeping violently, crossing myself, and saying the Jesus Prayer, knowing perhaps for once the true fruits of repentance. Next, I found myself crawling back to church, gored, bruised, and dazed, wondering how it could have all gone so wrongly so quickly.
Late one night, a few weeks before the Reunion of the Christ and Me, I am standing in front of the icons, praying. Except that I am unable to pray smoothly, because I am weeping between many of the lines. I make it through the evening prayers — the first time I have done them in their entirety in months. By Saturday I am in the nave, crying in front of the icons of Christ, unable to make it through prayers without sobbing, knowing that I have wronged not only myself and those loved ones around me, but God as well. I am confessing with my priest, and receive absolution. Then, on Sunday, back in the choir, and I am receiving the miracles.
I know that something has been missing in my life, and terribly missing, yet I didn’t want to do much about it because I was giving my sick and sinful side a chance to go off on its own. The idea of “it doesn’t matter anymore” underscored all my decisions. And soon, I was going at sin without hesitation. Wishing to be struck dead because of the horror that I had put myself and my family through.
But that is not the way God would have it. He wants to give us all a chance to repent.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
It had been said to me that perhaps the Lord because of my pride would let me act out in unseemly ways, for a while, then would let me fall hard in order to get a good crack at my pride. Indeed, it looks as this is what has happened. By no means can I sit here from a loft and proclaim repentance to all who will listen because I have had to repent. This is pure vanity. But instead I wish to let my readers know that repentance is come to one sinner, and hard repentance, and if I had not gone so wild into my pride and sin, I might not have lost as much as I did. Still, these losses notwithstanding, the Lord will have me.