He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Luke 3:3
When the cat jumps on me at 1AM and wakes me up, I sometimes have a hard time falling back to sleep again. Not because I had too much coffee the day before, but because all of a sudden my brain wants to attend to the list of things that I did that I shouldn’t have done. Or the list of things that I should have done, but didn’t do. Or the things that I said that came out all wrong.
Sometimes those things are from the day before, but other times the list appears from my decades gone by.
I lay there in some semi-conscious dream state and wallow in feelings of guilt, shame, and anger with myself.
It’s not a particularly popular thing to admit that you’re wrong, or have done something wrong. The all-too-typical responses are to minimize (“I’m sorry you feel that way.”), to deflect (“Well, what about when you did the same thing?”), or to lie (“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I never did that.”)
And then there’s the ways we try and hide our faults and problems from ourselves. But, the problem is that we can’t hide from ourselves. The truth will end up surfacing on some restless night long before the sun rises.
The baptism that John the Baptist proclaimed was a baptism of repentance. That word has gotten an ugly reputation, as if we think that feeling shame and guilt is a prerequisite. But, that’s not what repentance is. Repentance has nothing to do with lying in bed obsessing over things done and gone.
Repentance is about changing how we live in response to how we’ve lived. It’s a turning away from things that keep us from God, or that keep us from being the kind of people who God wants us to be (and, quite frankly, how WE want us to be), and a turning towards a new way of living that is more honest, kind, loving, and present.
Repentance is about turning toward the things that are beautiful—the things that show up in our daydreams, not our nightmares.
This is the baptism that John proclaims. And it’s the kind of living—the kind of turning—that makes for a life that is well lived with God by our side.
And where we sleep soundly all though the night.