Sitting with the Unrepentant Heart

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Morning prayer complete. Emails checked. A cup of hot tea steeps nearby. Outside, snow falls, and the weak winter Alaska sun tries valiantly to peek over the horizon and the puffy, icy clouds—just a hint of gray, a portent that day is almost here. It’s a holiday. Nothing to do. There are no agenda items. It’s quiet. I’m quiet. I take a sip of tea as I enjoy the absolute stillness of a morning in which the busyness of this world is held at bay for just a few hours. I relish it. It’s time for another cup of tea.

It is such a joy to slow down and just be for a change. The to-do lists can wait. The calendar can remain closed, and the emails unchecked. The television is off, and the silence of the day is a welcome hug of serenity and peace. Of course, there is a danger in silence that is this deep and this long. The voice of the Holy Spirit can be heard much more clearly than when my head is filled with noise and my body with activity. But, if I am totally honest, I really don’t want to listen. I don’t want a “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) moment.

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It’s easy to convince myself that I am good enough. I did morning prayer and confessed my sins. And the Abbot of my order offered absolution to me. So, I am good. The spiritual checklist is complete. I’m good, at least until evening prayer. “Now, can I just get on with enjoying my day,” I plead with the low whisper of the Holy Spirit (cf. I Kings 19:12).

My Unrepentant Heart

Ah, the unrepentant heart. Just yesterday, I preached a sermon on I Samuel 3. The words of verse 14 echo in my head:

Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.

Confession is not a to-do list that can be simply checked off once the external action is complete. True repentance and heart change are required.

Maybe it is time to get on my knees again. I pray…in silence…listening for His voice. I have been sitting in silence with an unrepentant heart. I have been happy, content even, with “good enough.”

“But God,” I cry, “I have been busy. I’m doing a lot of stuff.”

Silence. Crickets.

So, I wait. I am still.

“Son,” the voice of God’s Spirit both stirs and soothes my soul, “this is what I desire. Be with me. Relish this intimacy. Whether sitting in your room silently or going ninety miles an hour in ministry, BE WITH ME.”

Another sip of tea. I confess my own laziness in ministry. My laziness is not in the doing (okay, sometimes it is, but that’s not my point), but in the being with my Lord and King. My confession is often no more than a list of sins—and I miss the confession of a soul that too often longs for the things of this world instead of my Savior. I confess that my time and my disordered affections are things I hold onto, giving only little pieces of them to the Lord as I see fit.

Renewal. Sometimes, sitting with an unrepentant heart can bring about renewal—if we will listen.

The Unrepentant Heart of Others

Which got me thinking. How do we, how do I, sit with the unrepentant heart of others? How do I love the unrepentant heart of my parishioner, my spouse, my boss, my co-worker, and my neighbor? Do I love, or do I condemn? Do I say the right things and conduct the right actions but then dismiss going further because it’s messy, takes time, and is uncomfortable? Because I might just have to confront my own unrepentant heart?

I think that is the heart of ministry—sitting with the unrepentant heart. I sit with the adulterer, the same-sex attracted, the angry, the addicted, the broken, the narcissist, the lost. Why? Not to condone or wink at their sin. No, that is not love. Love does not say it is okay to live in your sin. It does not encourage or allow someone to “move and have their being” in the ugliness of sin. Love says I will sit with you despite your sin.

I sit with the unrepentant heart because we are on a journey together. Because my heart is too often unrepentant. Life and ministry are messy and unknown. I sit because love says, “Let’s unpack this together, seek God’s redemption, reconciliation, and healing together.” I sit because others sat with me. I sit because God calls me to love…regardless.

Love takes time. It takes effort. Love will, prayerfully, move the unrepentant heart one step closer to God’s Spirit, to forgiveness, towards redemption.

Silence. Another sip of tea. Today, I am alone, in community with the Triune God. Tomorrow, I pray I can sit with the unrepentant heart in community with the Triune God.

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep…


Photo by Kathrine Coonjohn on Unsplash

Published on

January 23, 2024

Author

Craig Daugherty

Craig Daugherty is a Deacon at St. George Parish at Fort Wainwright (Fairbanks), Alaska. He serves as the Director Religious Education for the U.S. Army and is also the Director of Formation for the Order of Saint Cuthbert.

View more from Craig Daugherty

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