What Change Looks Like
In Another Badger I promised to tell you a true story of repentance being walked out. Here it is.
This is a story about Rob and Roberta (names changed). They were married for over a decade and had a tolerable marriage. Then he ran off with her best friend. Every person in Rob’s life, his parents, pastor, friends, all of them begged him, warned him, not to do this thing. But he did. Within four months he realized what a terrible thing it was. It took longer for him to actually humble himself and call on Christ.
Roberta was hurt, angry, mean. Rob missed her but once he was truly following Christ he NEVER EVER pressured her, never asked to reconcile. When he saw their son he parented him well. He prayed. He helped as much as he could. He never once complained about Roberta’s lack of appreciation. Rob knew that given what he’d done Roberta couldn’t trust him. He didn’t ask for his efforts to be acknowledged. Five years later, that’s right, he did this for five years, Rob was at their son’s birthday party and a friend mentioned to Roberta that he looked happy and wondered if he loved Roberta. She asked him about it. He responded that he does love her, but he won’t ask for anything. If she’s ready to trust him one day, perhaps they could remarry. That was two years ago. Their wedding is set for this Spring.
Rob’s change had nothing to do with Roberta’s behavior. It wasn’t for her. It was because he honored Christ. I want our readers to know about that.
Fireproof shows the Hollywood time lapse photography version of this sort of true repentance. Seeing Fireproof reinforced to me the fact that X hasn’t changed. There are really beneficial things in Fireproof but we at ACFJ insist that it’s not a movie to be used by targets to try to get their abusers to change.
Here’s my question for folks who claim to be repentant. How long are you willing to bear fruit in keeping with repentance? A week? A year? A decade? A lifetime? What if no one ever notices, compliments, or even thanks you? Is it still worth it? If it’s for Christ, through Christ, by his power, it will be worth it. Will you show honor, respect, kindness to those you previously abused even if you could never come near them again? I’ve read of an ex-husband hearing that his ex-wife needed a new car and buying it. This wasn’t a bargaining chip. He just did it because it was the right thing to do. I know a man who paid child support long after the state required it because it was needed. Safe people do right because it’s right, not to gain an advantage over others, not to get repaid or thanked, and not to be better than others.
X hasn’t changed. He can’t without Christ. This sermon [Internet Archive link] really helped me understand who X is rejecting: it’s not me, it’s Christ. X doesn’t want a Lord.
Learning Rob and Roberta’s story and watching Fireproof helped me to understand what repentance looks like. And learning the children’s catechism is a great reminder:
To repent is to be sorry for sin and to hate and forsake it because it displeases God.
Change isn’t because the abuser loves his target or because he doesn’t want to see the kids suffer; it’s because he loves God. Rob acted to protect Roberta and made no demands. He would have done it from afar for the rest of his life. That’s a picture of repentance. And it’s the opposite of the comments and emails we get from abusers seeking to con us into becoming their allies. Learning to recognize the real thing makes the counterfeits stick out like a Vulcan among Klingons.