μετανοέω Is a simple biblical Greek word. It is a Lenten word. It means “to turn from” and is translated into English as repentance. I am not sure that is the best English word equivalent. The English word carries with it the notion of regret which for most of us is a stationary fixed mental place of sorrow. Typically there is no movement in regret. It is something you live with, hold on to and wallow in, and is certainly not what Jesus meant when he said, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” John the Baptist and Jesus both were calling people to action, to turn from their old ways, sinful ways, destructive ways, ineffective ways towards the new life in the Kingdom of God. They wanted people to turn, to move, to change and believe the good news that Jesus brought.
During Lent, we open our lives to μετανοέω, to turning, to realigning our lives with God. It, however, is not always easy. We often don’t see where or how we need to change. Here is a poem that I think reflects our stuck starting spot at the beginning of Lent:
Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.
We really can’t see how we cling to our old life. We need to spend time in prayer, in the Bible, and in reflection with others to see how we have made a spiritual home in the belly of a whale. We are not living a full and an abundant life as followers of Christ. Let us make time for reflection and more importantly be open to turning, to repentance, and new life in Christ this Lenten/ Easter season.