repentance, Spiritual

What True Repentance Looks Like

Last night I was studying my scriptures.  And as often happens to me, one reference leads me to another and I ended up on this General Conference Talk from October 2016: Repentance: A Joyful Choice by Dale G. Renlund.  I highly recommend it to you for a clear concise explaination of what true repentance looks like.  It is one of those moments when you know the Lord is guiding you to a place you needed to go and I definently needed to go to this talk. It was so validating.  I need that.

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Lately I have been struggling mightily over my Ex-husband’s failure to repent, at least he is not doing it in the way I have been taught to understand that repentance looks like. But everytime I mentioned to him over the past two years that he is not fully repenting, I am met with a constant barrage of accusations of being judgmental, critical, nonsupportive and mean.  These kinds of accusations can take a toll on a person after a while, especially when I am already so hurt, wounded, and shattered.  His failure to fully repent has left deep wounds in our family that keep getting torn open again and again.  He doesn’t understand that if he truly repented it would provide a healing balm over the entire family, especially me.

Instead we get resistance, subborness, and stonewalling. He ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to repent. It feels like he refuses to repent so he can prove he isn’t really an addict, that he just made a few “bad choices.” So he treats his repentance as such.  He expects to just say he is sorry and we will all forgive him and that will be that. This mindset, that what he has done is not that bad (minimizing) causes him to be astonished that I would have the nerve to divorce him, because why would anyone divorce a spouse that they love over a few “bad choices?” So he is able to rationalize in his mind that I am really the bad guy. He feels I bailed on him, not the other way around, which is really the case to any other rational human being.

Don’t get me wrong, he IS sorry.  But it the “sorrow of the damned,” not “sorrow unto repentance” or “godly sorrow.”  There is a huge difference. Just being sorry doesn’t cut it in the case of adultery and infidelity, not by anyone’s standards, and certainly not by the Lord’s standards.

 “The word repent connotes “to perceive afterwards” and implies “change.”4 In Swedish, the word is omvänd,which simply means “to turn around.”5 The Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote about the need and the method for change. He noted that repentance involves “being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right,” he said, “but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”6 Changing our behavior and returning to the “right road” are part of repentance, but only part. Real repentance also includes a turning of our heart and will to God and a renunciation of sin.7 As explained in Ezekiel, to repent is to “turn from … sin, … do that which is lawful and right; … restore the pledge, … [and] walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity.”8

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“Never by simply going on!” This is exactly what my Cheater wants to do!  He just wants to go on  from here!  He refuses to go back to the beginning of he errors and working forward from that point.  This is the crux of the pain he has caused and is continuing to cause within his devastated family.  He had the audacity to tell my daughter last week, that he is moving on with a different woman, in yet another relationship, because ” HE DESERVES TO BE HAPPY!”  My daughter was agasted at his extreme selfishness.  Her response; “You took a baseball bat to our family and destroyed everyone, but you deserve to move on and be happy, while everyone else is left broken and bruised?”

Does this sound like real repentance to you? No. Me either.

He will tell anyone who will listen that he is repenting.  But he is not.  It is not possible to say you are repenting, and at the same time, continuing in sin. If he were truly repenting we would all be able to tell, we would all see it, we would all know it. He would change.  His behavior would change, his words would change, his countenance would change.  The righteous can clearly judge this mighty change of heart.  It is as clear as the daylight from the dark night. Elder Runland continues:

Yet even this is an incomplete description. It does not properly identify the power that makes repentance possible, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that He can change us, faith that He can forgive us, and faith that He will help us avoid more mistakes. This kind of faith makes His Atonement effective in our lives. When we “perceive afterwards” and “turn around” with the Savior’s help, we can feel hope in His promises and the joy of forgiveness. Without the Redeemer, the inherent hope and joy evaporate, and repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification. But by exercising faith in Him, we become converted to His ability and willingness to forgive sin.

All sorts of lightbulbs went on in my head!  My Cheater is just in “Miserable Behavior Modification.” He is trying to do this on his own, without help from anyone, using his own wisdom, and he is failing miserably.  He has not made his repentance real because he isn’t following the steps for real repentance laid out by our Savior in the scriptures.  With, what my therapist Home Teacher calls, “cheap repentance,” he will NEVER have joy. He can seek for “happiness” all he wants, but he will never find joy! This is the lot of the damned. No joy.

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Elder Packer explains:

“The Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed. … It just heals, and what it heals stays healed.”9

He continued:

“The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, [the Savior] has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. …

“… The Atonement … can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated.”10

“The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us. As the prophet Lehi explained, after we “are instructed sufficiently” to “know good from evil,”11 we “are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.”12 In other words, repentance is a choice.”

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We must choose to repent.  Stunning in its simplicty. Profound in its appliction! This was another place in the talk that struck me.  Hard.  A few months before I made the decision to divorce my husband I spent days in the temple, praying and seeking for guidance on what I should or needed to do next.  I had some very sacred experiences during this time, but one thing stands out above the others.  The Lord said to me, very clearly…”Your husband has not chosen you.” As I think back on this now I understand that the Lord was also telling me, “he has not chosen me either.”  My Ex did not, and has not chosen US; the Lord, his family and me.  He has not chosen any of us.  If he would choose all of us, everything for him would change practically overnight.  He would be a changed man, with “no more desire to do evil [to his family], but to do good [to his family] continually.” He doesn’t want to do the hard work of repentance, real repentance, so he believes it will be simpler to just walk away.  Not so.

Remarkably Elder Rutland list a few things that keep us from choosing to repent.  To my astonishment they were the same symptoms of denial! He says:

“We can—and sometimes do—make different choices. Such choices may not seem intrinsically wrong, but they prevent us from becoming truly penitent and thus preclude our pursuit of real repentance.”

  1. For instance, we may choose to blame others. But blaming others, even if justified, allows us to excuse our behavior. By so doing, we shift responsibility for our actions to others. When the responsibility is shifted, we diminish both the need and our ability to act. We turn ourselves into hapless victims rather than agents capable of independent action.13
  2. Another choice that impedes repentance is minimizing our mistakes... It would have been easy to say that there was no reason to repent. But minimizing our mistakes, even if no immediate consequences are apparent, removes the motivation to change. This thinking prevents us from seeing that our mistakes and sins have eternal consequences.
  3. Yet another way is to think that our sins do not matter because God loves us no matter what we do. It is tempting to believe what the deceitful Nehor taught the people of Zarahemla: “That all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, … and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.”14 But this seductive idea is false. God does love us. However, what we do matters to Him and to us. He has given clear directives about how we should behave. We call these commandments. His approbation and our eternal life depend on our behavior, including our willingness to humbly seek real repentance.15
  4. Additionally, we forgo real repentance when we choose to separate God from His commandments…We should be wary of discounting sinful behavior by undermining or dismissing God’s authorship of His commandments. Real repentance requires recognizing the Savior’s divinity and the truthfulness of His latter-day work.

My Cheater has used all of these excuses, and others, to shirk his responsibilites to himself, to me and to his family to do the hard work of real repentance.  It is interesting that these excuses are also the behaviors of an addict in denial.

Instead of making excuses, let us choose repentance. Through repentance, we can come to ourselves, like the prodigal in the parable,16 and reflect on the eternal import of our actions. When we understand how our sins can affect our eternal happiness, we not only become truly penitent but we also strive to become better.”

When faced with temptation, we are more likely to ask ourselves, in the words of William Shakespeare:

What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?

A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.

Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week,

Or sells eternity to get a toy?17

My Cheater has a new “toy.” That will not bring him lasting joy.  True repentance will.  Healing the wounds of his family will.  Binding up our broken hearts will.  But he would rather play with his new toy instead of repairing a family he has spent a lifetime in building.  This makes no sense to me.

Elder Runland explains:

“If we have lost sight of eternity for the sake of a toy, we can choose to repent. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have another chance. Metaphorically, we can exchange the toy we so ill-advisedly purchased in the first place and receive again the hope of eternity. As the Savior explained, “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”18

My Cheater still continues to make bad choices, including refusing to do the hard work of real repentance.  It’s nice to know, I am not the only one who thinks so.

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The Cupcake Warrior

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

addiction, betrayal, infidelity, repentance, Spiritual

Forgiveness for Adultery: Is it Different?

A family member recently told my daughter she wasn’t being forgiving enough of her Father. In the famous words of Indigo Montoya, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

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This idea that we just have to forgive someone even when they are still in the throws of sinning against us, is a very common musconception and reveals that the person who is saying it has a lack of basic doctrinal understanding about when, where, how and why we forgive someone who has wronged us through adultery and infidelity.

Let me be clear about something: we must forgive everyone. That much is clear in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I understand this. However, some wrongs are easier to forgive than others. When someone breaks your favorite toy, it  is much easier to forgive that than it is when someone breaks your family.  Some wrongs need more time and space to forgive. And some wrongs require the sinner to repent or be cast out, by the church and maybe even his own family.

Doctrine and Covenants 42 is pretty clear on this:

21 Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out.

22 Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.

23 And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.

24 Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out.

25 But he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive;

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26 But if he doeth it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out.

This sounds to me like you get one pass in committing adultery from the church.  The 2nd time, no forgiveness is required. I might be wrong on this one, but after reading a few conference talks with this reference included, I don’t think so.

I hated it when my husband would say to me, “You are just too angry with me for me to repair anything with you. You haven’t forgiven me yet.”  Some idiot in his group told him I was like trying to hug a porcupine. So he used both of these things as excuses to not repair anything. He thinks there is no point, I won’t accept anything he would or could do, so why bother.

Except that the Lord REQUIRES him to repent, repair and restore to me what he took away.  That is why he should bother!  Of course I am angry.  He would not change, he still refuses to change, and he blamed me for his failure to do so. Wouldn’t that make you angry? Wouldn’t it make anyone angry?

Peter was pretty clear about how you treat someone who refuses to repent, repair and restore:

2 Peter 2:

14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:

15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.

17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Proverbs is very clear about what happens when a man commits adultrey and refuses to repent:

Proverbs 6:

32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.

And this one is pretty clear about requiring the innocent to withdraw from the man who refuses to repent!

2 Thessalonians:

24 For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them.

25 Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.

It seem pretty clear to me from my study on this topic that the Lord requires us to forgive, more for our own souls, than for the sinner.  However, it is not quite as cut and dried for adultery. If the adulterer is unrepentant and refuses to change the innocent are expected to withdraw from him in order to save themselves. The question then becomes, why? Alma gives us some insights…

Alma 46:

8 Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one.
9 Yea, and we also see the great wickedness one very wicked man can cause to take place among the children of men

Of course, those who continue to be rebellious, wicked and prideful still deserve our forgiveness, but it’s pretty clear that we are not required to continually expose ourselves to the influences of these sins.

D&C 64:

33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.

35 And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land.

I do forgive him for what he has done.  That was pretty easy to do, and it happened fairly quickly after the original offense.  What I have a hard time forgiving is what he has done since then.  I know I need to forgive him and I will, eventually.  It would be so much easier to extend that mercy if he would do what is required of him to repent, repair, and restore that which he took away. If he did the bare minimum in this regard all of our lives would change for the better.

Even so, I still need to forgive him for my own sake.  But it goes a long way with me to know that the Lord doesn’t expect me to continue to expose myself to his bad behavior while he is still in the depths of sin.  One thing my Cheater liked to bully me over was that I wasn’t supportive enough of him.  Of course not! He wasn’t repentant! The Lord expects me to protect myself from his persistent sin.  He refused to repent.  So I removed myself, and “escaped from him who lived in error.” You have every right and justification to do the same!

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

addiction, betrayal, divorce, My Story, repentance, Spiritual

A Mighty Change of Heart

Tomorrow is it two years to the day that I learned my husband was having multi-affairs online.

Remembering this day fills my heart with pain so intense that it feels like my heart is in a vise grip.  Just typing this is giving me a full-blown panic attack.  Heart pounding, hyperventilating, and hot tears forming in my eyes.  I still can’t believe this is my life.  I had to file for a divorce I never wanted because he would not or could not choose me over his addiction.

Giving love

The choice of my heart will not choose me.  At this point, I shouldn’t care.  Why should I?

Nevermind that my Patriarchal Blessing practically describes him, our courtship, family life, and marriage. It might as well have his name written there.

When I was engaged to him, my parents, especially my mother, did want me to marry him.   (They listened to gossip about him from his teenage goofiness.) After having another argument with my mom over marrying him, I asked her if she had prayed about it.  She had not.  I told her I didn’t want to talk about this until she prayed about it.  A few days later she came to me with a strange question, “What does his mother look like?” His Mom died when he was sixteen so I never met her, but I had seen pictures of her. I described her to my mom.  It was then that the tears started.  My mom then told me that his mother had appeared to her in a dream and told her that she had “hand picked” me for her son and then she asked my mom to please allow me to marry him.  So you see.  I can’t say this was a mistake.  Our love. Our marriage. It was meant to be! It was not a mistake. Remembering this brings a flood of tears to my eyes. My heart can hardly stand the pain!

This is why I pray every night that my Cheater will have a mighty change of heart.  It is excruciating to be so helpless over the choices of another person.  Especially one you love so much.  I can do nothing.  Just pray.  So I pray he will finally come back to himself and then come back to me.

Praying hands on an open bible

“Therefore, repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior. Many men and women in the world demonstrate great willpower and self-discipline in overcoming bad habits and the weaknesses of the flesh. Yet at the same time they give no thought to the Master, sometimes even openly rejecting Him. Such changes of behavior, even if in a positive direction, do not constitute true repentance.”  Ezra Taft Benson

I believe in miracles. I really do.  But sitting here, two years later, the miracle seems to be so far out of reach.

This week I learned that he isn’t even going to church now.  The Bishop hasn’t even heard of him. In a strange way, this is somewhat comforting to me.  He has lead me to believe that he was working to repent and get back in the church so he could move on with his new girlfriend. It hurt me so badly to know he didn’t want to change for me.  After spending 37 years of our lives together, he couldn’t be bothered to make any changes for me. That hurts. I guess he doesn’t want to change for her either.

This is an important lesson for me.

It’s not about me.

It’s about him.

The kind of change that needs to happen in his heart to make him a new man must come from within.  He can’t do it for me.  He can’t do it for our kids or grandkids.  He can’t do it for her or for any other person.  He has to do it for the Savior. He has to do it for himself.  A mighty change of heart happens with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It can happen in no other way.

I have been praying for this for two years.

I guess I will just keep praying.

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Alma 5:

 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

 And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.

 And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.

 10 And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

 11 Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?

 12 And according to his faith there was a mighty changewrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.

 13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

 14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

 15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?

 16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

 17 Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?

 18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?

 19 I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?

 20 I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil?

 21 I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.

This is what a mighty change of heart looks like.  Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Stay Sweet, Be Stong!