The Spiritual Discipline of Apologizing

Something that has been in the air for a while, and particularly this week, is repentance. Apologies, to be more specific.

Forgive me (He he, I am using repentance language) this is going to be a bit long because I want to make a connection that is not often made. I hope this makes sense. If not, it does to me and this is my journal as much as it is an offering of my heart to my community. Someday I hope to get paid for this work. I spend hours on this.

Let me begin:

2016 threw me for a loop when a large amount of Christians thought it was fine when Trump said he had never repented or asked for forgiveness. Repentance is foundational to our faith. How was that acceptable to anyone? It baffled me, and I had not even started my deconstruction journey yet. That was probably the beginning of it for me—that and Two Corinthians. But I have since learned Christians suck at apologies and repenting. It all makes sense now. It is time we address this.

The reason why I am writing about apologies is for a couple of reasons. One is Christians who believe they always have to be right or know everything are the ones who will not apologize. They would rather lose a relationship than admit fault. I heard another person say it is also a way to avoid admitting they were ignorant about something. The Daily Oklahoman when talking about the botched investigation with Richard Glossip that ultimately led our state to kill him, wrote this as a title: “Oklahoma would rather kill than admit wrongdoing.”

It is deadly when we cannot admit we are wrong, friends. It costs us valuable and meaningful relationships too. It does not have to be this way.

A meme was posted by Word Porn this week that said: Some people are not speaking to you because they owe you an apology.

That struck me as something I need to write about, because it is true. I want to talk about that scripturally.

That post made me pause and think about the spiritual silencing that happens in scripture; for example, Zechariah in Luke 1. Zechariah was silenced by an angel when he questioned the messenger on the trustworthiness of their message (he did not understand it and was not curious)—he cited being old as an excuse to believe this change could happen. I am finding this more interesting now since making the connection of how hard it is to get adults to change. Zechariah’s location in the sanctuary of the Lord performing a ritual is also revealing. We often do not see the change that needs to happen when we are in the very place where we say we believe God. Over familiarity with location and rituals can cause us to not be familiar with them at all!

At first glance, for me at least, it seems like the messenger/angel is being harsh. I mean, it was an absurd message. But then as I meditate on it more and look at what is happening in our world today, the story seems to be telling a deeper truth than meets the eye. Here is someone with a priestly history, and his wife too, and both lived righteously and blamelessly before God. But when a messenger from God shows up, Zechariah’s first instinct is not to trust them.

The silencing was not due to sin, mind you; it was lack of trust. I am going to talk about sin in another post sometime. Zechariah had to repent for the lack of trust that caused him not to believe God’s messenger. He was caught up in the old ways that were keeping him from receiving a new message; a message bringing good news for change.

Lack of trust is what is hurting our humanity and causing our systems to fail. The inability to be wrong, and wrong about people. Our systems are set up to be suspicious of people immediately. Especially if they are out of the ordinary with a message that seems far-out. I caught something new meditating on this passage this morning: Zechariah is not trusting a person who trusts themself! This messenger was confident saying: I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news (1:19)

What I hear now when I read this passage is someone who knows who they are. When he says “I am Gabriel” that is powerful. He gave himself a name. This angel knows who they are and that they can be trusted. He trusts himself, and so does God.

Juxtapose Zechariah’s story with Mary’s. Her story follows immediately after. Her location is not in the House of the Lord where the angel finds her. Her response is different than Zechariah’s. She asks “how this is possible?”; not “how can I know that this will happen?.” She was not asking for proof, but asking the how this is going to work. She wants to know her part to make this happen, especially being a virgin (which, by the way, does not mean what we think it means, but that is a sermon for another day too).

Mary’s willingness to trust led her to birth Jesus. God trusted a human body, a woman’s body, to hold the divine and usher in a new order.

Zechariah was silenced, but that silence allowed him to see and hear in a new way, so he can participate in the new life that God was fulfilling too.

I can’t help but think the silence happening when there is no apology is a spiritual silence. God is asking for trust. People are asking for trust.

Long story to say that accountability leads to trust. Repentance leads to trust.

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