In my prison discussion group, one of the guys had something he’d learned and wanted to share with the rest of us. We were looking at the 10th Step of 12-Step Recovery — “Continuing to take personal inventory, and when we are wrong, promptly admitting it.” We were discussing what it’s like to admit that something we’ve done or an attitude we may have is wrong. That’s when Rodney spoke up.
“I’ve been studying what the Bible means when it uses the word ‘repentance,’ and how it’s different from what people usually think of. I always thought ‘Repent!’ meant that I’m supposed to completely change my life right now. And that always scared me off: I didn’t know how to make a complete 180, and I usually just gave up and said, ‘What’s the use?’
“But I learned that ‘repentance’ means a change in your thinking. So, yeah, my life needs to change, but it can start small — I can look at stuff I’m doing and ask the question, ‘Is this right? Is this what God wants?’ And that’s already a change right there.”
I think every man in the room was encouraged by what Rodney said. Like Rodney, a lot of them had the common misconception that it’s all or nothing — completely turn away from all sin right this moment, or you’re hopeless. We looked at what David wrote in Psalm 139:23-24 — “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” — and we saw how David was ready to let God give him the will and the power to change his thinking, even if David didn’t feel like making any changes at that moment. (David had just told God, in Psalm 139:19-22, about his murderous hatred for some people, and how he felt perfectly justified in having that attitude — but he told God about it, and he was open to whatever God wanted to do with that attitude of his.)
“Maybe you’re not willing, but are you willing to become willing?” — that’s an AA slogan, and it’s a pretty good reflection of how living in God’s grace works. Instead of setting up a standard for me to measure up to, God meets me where I’m at and starts working with me right from that point. You and I, and the guys in prison — we all can have hope for a new life, from the God who loves and forgives and accepts us right where we’re at.