My two-year old likes to walk backwards. I send him to his room, he walks backwards. I ask him to go potty, he walks backwards. He’s getting a little better at it – at least faster – but he still crashes into things a lot. Part of his problem is when he walks backwards, he looks forward, which makes it difficult to avoid obstacles.
There’s another little developmentally-appropriate thing we are experiencing with him right now. He’s getting the form of repentance, but not quite the function of it yet.
He will say, “Sorry I hitted you. You f’gib me? Next time I be nice.”
But he’s not really sorry. Next time he isn’t nice. And he’s equally likely to hit you again just so he can run through the script.
He often giggles when he’s asking forgiveness.
He’s two, and we want to help him to practice the skills of seeking forgiveness, but I know he’s still growing in understanding repentance, grief over sin, and empathy that leads to a true desire for forgiveness and changed behavior.
So am I.
I think his walking backward is a great picture of his hollow attempts at repentance. Mine, too, actually.
Repentance should include turning from what is wrong and walking in a new direction. I should turn away from sin and walk toward holiness.
But sometimes I don’t really repent.
A failure to repent is like walking backwards. It is ever so hard to see where I am going.
Sometimes I go through the motions of repentance – saying the right things, changing outward actions to be more acceptable, but in my heart, I am walking backwards. I have turned my face away from where I was going, but I still move in the original direction. And I stumble. And I’m not really sorry. And next time I’m not nice, either. I simply run through the script and feel justified.
Ask forgiveness? Check!
And then I get frustrated because I don’t experience victory over sin….
Do you know why my two-year old is getting better at walking backwards? Because he has finally started to look over his shoulder and see where he’s going. Since he can see clearly, he can change his path to avoid the obstacles. He can get to where he really wants to go by looking at the path and heading in the right direction. And when he really wants to get someplace, he turns around and runs full force for it!
I need to do the same thing.
It’s not about clearing the path so I can continue on my way, it’s about looking sin squarely in the eye, seeing it for what it is, and choosing something different (ideally not a different sin – lol).
It is a lot less about figuring out what not to do and a lot more about figuring out what to do.
If I don’t want to yell at my kids anymore, it is more helpful to decide how I will respond (with a measured, calm voice) than to simply decide not to yell.
Interestingly, I find, like my two-year old, I make much better progress when I can see where I am going.