Have you ever stopped to really consider what it means to repent? If we are to consider it in the most frequently used meaning of this word, most would say it means to stop doing something, but it may not carry the idea of doing something else instead. When we are wanting to understand something as important as repentance, we must turn to the scriptures to really see how God describes the action. It means to turn your heart toward your first-love (God himself). It also carries the idea of "re-dedication". In the simplest terms, this means we choose to be set apart unto him - devoting ourselves wholly (not just some of our parts) and with an earnestness which expresses both a sincerity and intensity of desire to see ourselves doing something differently in our lives.
Even now, turn back your heart and rededicate yourselves to Me; show Me your repentance by fasting, weeping, and mourning. Now return to the Eternal, your True God. You already know He is gracious and compassionate. He does not anger easily and maintains faithful love. (Joel 2:12-13 VOICE)
When we examine our passage today, repentance involves the heart needing a little redirecting. That signifies our hearts get a little distracted or off-course. If we think of the heart as the seat of our emotions, we can easily understand how this can happen, as emotions can become very distracting at times. When I am having a particularly challenging day, my emotions can range from elation to extremes of disappointment, frustration, and even anger. They can be all over the place - up, down, here and there. So, it stands to reason my "heart" can get a little swayed in one direction or another. When I lived in the bay area we had some very strong winds on occasion. One particular year, the winds were so strong they had to close the Golden Gate Bridge because of the tremendous amount of sway occurring on this grand suspension bridge leading into San Francisco. The cars couldn't maintain their "grounding" on the roadway because the bridge was moving so violently with the force of the winds. I'd like us to think of repentance as that which brings things back to "center" in our hearts - removing the "sway" and giving us "grounding" again to focus as we should and make "safe passage" in our daily choices.
The second thing we come to understand from our passage is this idea of "showing" our re-dedication. In other words, repentance is more than words. It is more than asking forgiveness for some offense and then moving on. There is some action on our part which reveals our commitment to what we are saying we want to do differently. Whenever I have drifted into some form of "sway" in my life, I know there is going to be some "clean up" activity required. It stands to reason we cannot just expect things to be perfect just because we ask for forgiveness - the winds may have died down, but every "storm" in life leaves some type of debris to be dealt with! A couple of things are pointed out - actions which express our determination to turn again to doing what we know to be right and true in our lives AND the willingness to take the steps to "return" to "center" again.
The most important part of repentance is the assurance we need to have of being accepted into God's welcoming arms, no matter how much we have drifted off-center or how much grounding we have lost in life. He is gracious and compassionate. He's not easily angered, and he has maintained (and will always maintain) his intense love for each of us. The winds of life may have afforded the opportunity to put a little "sway" into our lives, but it doesn't mean we need to lose hope. The "return to center" is what brings about the re-grounding of our lives. Just sayin!