Everyone is marketing something these days. If it isn’t your friends posting about their newfound favorite thing or product or show or gadget, it’s the Google/Facebook conspiracy that knows everything you search for and read and click on and think about clicking on and sneaking in ads that look like friend’s posts to sucker you in.
We want it, to be honest. It’s the American way to be constantly marketed to. we want to feel like we’re making choices and that we are getting what we want at a decent price. The costs – the true costs – are always hidden though.
So I’m having this get together and we are going to sit around and name all of our worst qualities and every sin that we’ve committed in the past and all the sins we struggle with and wear itchy, smelly rags and heap ashes on our heads. Wanna come?
Ok, I guess I’m not good at marketing. But who is good at marketing repentance?
Repentance is not really a fun activity. It’s messy and painful. It ruins shaky relationships and can devastate even the best of relationships. Admitting you have a problem is the first step for a lot of reasons. It’s maybe the most difficult. It’s definitely frightening.
So let’s eat pancakes!
I find it funny that Fat Tuesday is celebrated by eating too much. I didn’t grow up with this tradition, but I fully embraced it in my adult years. Gluttony is a “safe” sin to poke fun at and we can have a blast doing it.
Marketing sin is the easy stuff. Lust. Arrogance. Wrath. Laziness. All the good stuff. You can’t get far in a Netflix list without touching on pretty much all of them in one row. We love it. We love watching it. We love seeing people destroy themselves and all those around them and then discuss it all, at length, with friends. We are intrigued and pay our price to see the show.
But what then? We feed the monster and it will grow. Seemingly overnight, but it really takes years before we can recognize what has happened. We don’t know what to do with it. So we just satiate it and try to keep it locked and hidden.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
There is One who marketed repentance. (Well, marketed is just a now-word to make it sound relevant, I’ll admit.) Some traditions use ashes on the forehead to remind us of our great sins, the debts we owe, against each other and against God. I think there are many who either don’t want to be reminded or feel like it’s not necessary. Maybe you’re one who thinks religion is so antiquated and we don’t really need rituals to save us. Just be a good person.
I wish. I so wish that this was the answer. I spent many years hoping that just everyone going about their business and trying to be happy was the answer. But it’s a bit like eating pancakes – too many pancakes – for many years. And you can survive many years and live a relatively good life that way. Try.
What promises do you get in life? In marketing you learn that there are benefits and features to everything. There are choices you make with the knowledge you have and you move forward in the way that seems best to you. Do you know your options? Have you done your research? Have you tested the products? Do you settle for a price point over quality because it’s all you can afford? Have you just given up and given in to whatever is most convenient and comfortable?
Repentance is not convenient nor comfortable. In any way. It is costly and it is exhausting. It feels like The Worst as you walk through it. It feels like the darkest wood on the darkest night.
Or maybe, that’s not the repentance. Maybe, just maybe, that’s the sin itself. Maybe you feel the weight of the choices you’ve made and the direction your heart and mind have taken. And the pain is created by the fog lifting so you can clearly see just how much danger you’ve been in. Maybe you are finally recognizing you’re in the woods and instead of doing what you always do – making excuses, outright denying – you begin to see a way out. Repentance is like the steps you take to cut off the roots you’ve grown into the forest floor. It’s like steps you take away from the tree that was feeding your dark. It’s like the steps you struggle to place before you toward the smallest of lights that you can just make out a little bit at first, but more and more as you confess, as you cry out to God, as you put your hand into The Forgiving Hand and let it lead you out.
Jesus, grant us repentance. Turn our hearts and our minds toward you. Help us to choose to leave the dark. Let us walk in the light. A journey worth making, and every penny well spent.