Monday, July 18, 2016
Repent! Said the old Lady
When I was much younger I had the opportunity to attend church with a group of aging senior citizens with mental deterioration on multiple occasions. It was quite an experience, and very interesting.
One day we were listening to a talk on repentance and an old lady with some kind of mental deterioration stood up, lifted her arms and yelled "Repent! Repent!" Her voice, which was shaky from old age, was firm and determined. She was very intense and serious in her loud admonition. "Repent! Repent!"
I remember some of the workers there reminding her to sit quietly. I wish I could remember how everyone else responded. But multiple times she would start yelling again, calling us to repentance.
The younger me found this kind of amusing. It was a memory that I have always thought back on with curiosity and laughter. The sweet, but crazy, old lady who yelled at us all to repent. It was quite the scene to my young mind.
I often liked to peek my head in to her room and say hello. She was a nice, sweet, and funny lady.
I found out later that she passed away not too long after that.
Every once in a while something will remind me of the time she stood and screamed for repentance and still I found it funny.
Until this last time I thought about it.
The last few years especially I have had a front row seat to what happens to someone when they are riding the downward spiral of bad choices. Especially when they want to pretend that there is nothing wrong with their actions. You just want to pull them out of it and say, "Can't you see that this is tearing you (and often times your family) apart? Stop now!"
But even if you don't have that experience, we all have things we could improve on or change.
Suddenly I saw that old lady's yells as something more than just a funny outburst to be shushed in the name of reverence. Suddenly her hilarious act was thrown into the sharp light of seriousness.
At the end of my life, when my energy is gone, what advice would I give? What will I yell out? What will I hope to teach people? What will be worth my energy to stand up out of my wheel chair and use my shaky breath to yell?
At the end of her life, this old lady plead for repentance. Who knows where her mind was at that point. Was it in the present? Was it somewhere in the past? Who was she really pleading for to repent? Or was it just the general advice that had moved her so much?
Now I look back on her yells as the advice from someone who had lived her life and was close to moving on. After all of those years of living, "Repent" is the message I heard her share. The message that survived the mental deterioration and stood firm in her mind. The message she felt compelled to stand and shout.
Now I hear her echo, "Repent!" And I understand why she would shout it out like that.