Mark 1:7-8 John announced, “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”
The context of this statement by John the Baptist is repentance and forgiveness. John invited people to be baptized to show “that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven” (verse 4). Obviously, Jesus didn’t need either to repent or to forgive. His baptism was sealed by a revelation of the Trinity, the Father affirming him with precious words we all love to hear when we make God our own Father, and the Holy Spirit descending on him.
But the linking Mark made in telling how John joined repentance to forgiveness reminded me of something I learned from one of Karis’s aides. I could write a book about our experiences with aides during the two and a half years they frequented our home! We had a huge turnover of aides, for all kinds of reasons. Two of them were a huge blessing and were with us for several months. Others—not so much.
One morning we met a new aide at the hospital in the waiting room for transplant clinic. After Karis had her blood drawn, we typically waited several hours for results to come back so she could see the doctor. I had urgent errands which I planned to accomplish during this waiting period while the aide stayed with Karis.
I carefully explained to our new gal what Karis would need while I was gone: principally, helping her to and in the rest room and getting water for her, since at that time she was not mobile on her own. I would be back in about an hour. The aide must not leave Karis’s side while I was gone, because no one else would care for her while she was in the waiting room.
I zipped through my errands and got back to the waiting room to find Karis frantic for the rest room and for a drink of water. “The aide left right after you did,” Karis told me through tears. “She said she was hungry.”
GRRRR. I was settling Karis after tending to her needs when the aide wandered in, chatting on her phone and eating French fries from a fast food bag. When she saw me, her eyes widened, and she quickly ended her phone call. “I didn’t expect you back so quickly,” she said. “I was hungry.”
“Karis, are you OK now for a few minutes? We are going to find a more private place to talk.”
I described to the aide how I had found Karis when I returned. I asked her what I had said she must do while I was gone.
“Stay with her,” she remembered.
“But you didn’t stay with her.”
“Like I said, I was hungry.”
I explained that the number one requirement for being an aide for Karis was trust. Karis and I had to be able to trust her to do what we asked. Karis’s wellbeing absolutely depended on that. “You haven’t shown us you are trustworthy. Would you like the chance to do better?”
“Ma’am, I am digging deep into my soul for the strength and patience to be able to forgive you for what you just said to me. I am telling myself some mothers just get too attached to their daughters. I am willing to forgive you if you never speak to me that way again.”
“All right. I promise I will never speak that way to you again, because you are dismissed. I will call your agency to explain what happened. Goodbye.”
“But—I need this job! Can you at least give me a recommendation?”
Our aide was far from repentant. In fact, she flipped the table to make it seem I was the one who needed her forgiveness.
Crazy, right? Frightening. Exasperating. Draining.
But haven’t you and I done the same thing with God from time to time? We blame God for the consequences of something we ourselves have done. And then feel noble when we decide to “forgive” God for “making” us suffer those consequences.
This Lent, I realized I’ve done exactly that with God regarding one specific aspect of my life. And you know what? I’ve found God generous with second chances. But first I needed to recognize what I had done, admit it (confess), repent (turn away from rather than keep trying to justify my attitude and behavior), and humbly ask for forgiveness. And then ask for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit to enable me to make restitution.
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (1 John 1:8-9).