“No, you can’t.” “Because I said so.” “Don’t do that again.” “You need to apologize.” How many times have I said this to one of my children?
Their lips close, their jaws set; muscles in their faces contract. Eyebrows lower just a millimeter; eyes narrow.
The face of stubbornness.
Sometimes I could look in the mirror to spare myself their stubborn faces. Or look at my husband. We are all stubborn, we all think we are always right, we all want to skate by our mistakes as if they never happened.
They might be minor mistakes: a forgotten chore, a failed follow-through, even a word that may have been taken the wrong way.
They all warrant atonement, and sometimes we just don’t feel like atoning.
We keep silent; we don’t want to admit we are in the wrong; we are stubborn.
Sometimes, we don’t even realize atonement is needed; it is not until someone calls us on our wrong that we see what we have done. Those mistakes are easier to ignore; after all, we were ignorant; we didn’t know we did anything wrong. Who are you to tell me that I am wrong? I didn’t do anything!
We dig in our heels. Our stubborn face sets.
The problem is, mistakes seem to pick themselves up where we discarded them and meet us down the road, far from when they happened. They manifest themselves in latent guilt feelings, broken relationships, loss of communication, walls between loved ones built higher and stronger.
The Bible is filled with commands to repent. The Israelites were told to repent. John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Luke, John: they all told various groups, and us, to repent. Jesus does too.
I am in the wrong pretty often. I’m so imperfect. I say and do things I wish I hadn’t every single day. I have only gotten better at repenting. Sometimes my mouth opens and something flies out and I pray silently for forgiveness. Sometimes I say it right to the person. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that. I wasn’t thinking.
Sometimes I don’t say anything. And like David, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” (Psalm 32: 3-4, NASB)
When we are stubborn, it wears on us. It breaks us down physically, mentally, spiritually. Our burdens, the ones that come from within, weigh us down and get between our relationships with others, with God. His hand, ever present and upon me to protect and guide, feels heavy on my back, my own mistakes weighing me down. It is not a nice feeling. I want to feel like I am sitting lightly in God’s palm, not under the weight of his huge hand.
I want to be open to his word, his nourishment, the life he has so freely given me.
All I have to do is admit my wrong, open my heart, be willing to change, be malleable to what God wants to teach me.
A stubborn face is the barrier that keeps all of us from that, and it’s not doing anybody any favors. That’s apparent when I look at my family, when I look in the mirror.
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. Psalm 32: 1-2 (NLT)
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord… Acts 3:19 (NIV)