Posted by: Botolff | July 30, 2009

Surrender and Repentance

That’s the title of the last message that I spoke at the church I was terminated from.  As always, it was a thick message, as most of mine are, but I’m now amazed at how appropriate it was for my last one with that congregation.  

The premise of it was based on a verse in the Bible (II Corinthians 7:10) that talks about Godly sorrow (surrender) and worldly sorrow (control).  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  

Godly sorrow is the kind that says, “There is only so much I can do about my circumstances. The rest I will have to mourn, because it should not be in my hands to control.”  Godly sorrow is the kind of sorrow that is often witnessed when you see people on their knees by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, or by the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington, D.C.. It is the grieving that our body longs to go through when something important has been taken away from us, and there is nothing we can do to get it back.  Maybe we’ve lost a loved one, a job, our favorite pet, or our pride.  It is this kind of sorrow that acknowledges God as our author, and calls us to repent and surrender control of our circumstances to him/her.  It gives the responsibility for our lives back to God.  Isn’t that salvation?

Worldly sorrow is the kind that says, “I am afraid of hurting and I will do whatever it takes to hurt less, including hurting other people who might compromise that.”  This kind of sorrow is birthed out of fear.  A fear of hurting.  It comes from a misunderstanding of suffering.  I think it’s common for us to believe that suffering is to be banished at all costs, instead of embraced as a significant part of carrying our own cross.  Suffering, in our sinful state, is an important part of the Christian journey.  It is what helps to beckon us back to repentance and surrender to God.  But worldly sorrow refuses to suffer.  It refuses to suffer the truth of our sinful condition or decisions, difficult conversations, a change in belief or behavior, or just the unexpected twists and turns of life.  Worldly sorrow leads to a need to control our circumstances, and to demand an outcome that promises less suffering for us.  The scriptures say that this leads to death.  Why?  Because doesn’t an unrepentant unsurrendered heart break relationship with God?  Isn’t this at the very heart of salvation?  An acknowledgement that I need a Savior to rescue me from that which I want to control on my own?

One area that I put an incredible amount of emphasis on in my last message to the church was lying.  I said straight up, “Don’t lie.  And when you do, because we will, repent and get it right.”  Why?  Because lying is a manipulative effort to remain in control.  Lying is all about control.  Even the “embellishment” of our stories, which most of us do, is an attempt to get a certain response out of the person we are sharing our stories with.  Maybe we want more sympathy, or excitement, or loyalty, or support.  One of the problems is that lying dramatically increases the shame of any given situation, and thus requires a whole lot more work to sort it out the details in order to get to the truth.  But even worse, when we lie, we sacrifice our own integrity, which ultimately will increase the shame for us exponentially.  When we have lied, it will require more of us in the repentance process (that of turning back to God and each other), because we first have to come to grips with a deeper level of shame that we have created for ourselves by running from the truth the first time.  Many times we won’t go through the suffering it will take to own up to that shame.  Instead, we’ll compound the lie with another one, and another one, and another one, until we have woven an intricate web of deception that creates a multifaceted facad in our lives that we expect everyone else to cater to.  Ultimately…CONTROL.  And in my understanding, control at all costs doesn’t seem to be in line with a healthy relationship with God.

Thoughts on surrender, repentance, sorrow, control, lying, etc.?



  1. WOW, Jamie…Smack me between the eyes…I’ll be the one walking around with 2 black eyes for a couple of weeks. But seriously…For me it is so much about controlling the pain. And right now my being in control is out of control. Kind of at a place where “pain exceeds resources for coping with pain”. Know what I mean? You said some things very clearly that I need to hear.

  2. I like to think of myself as a fairly blunt and honest person. However, at church, I lie all the time. The half-truths and outright fabrications spew from me constantly.

    I think it has less to do with manipulation than with fear. I am constantly on the defensive – guarding against what people’s judgments are of me. I am also defending against the incredible standards that people hold me to. I try to meet those standards and avoid those judgments, by presenting a version of my life that is closer to what they expect.

    Church has taught me to be a damned good liar.

  3. Actually Corey, you have allowed yourself to become a liar. You have no one to blame but yourself. You conform because you are afraid to say what you believe and in doing so, you will lose your employment. Don’t blame the church…if you are afraid your views and/or life will offend…why would you want to be there? You simply become what I have often heard you say you hate…a shallow mouthpiece of the church. If what you are saying is true, I guess I don’t understand!?!

  4. Shelly,

    The first thing that came to my mind when I read your comment was, did I give you those black eyes, or did you give them to yourself? It sounds like whatever I said that connected so significantly with you might be good to try and follow up with some grace. You are worth the grace.

    The truth is, we will all be the people at different times in our lives, or a lot of time in our lives, that try to control the pain. When I fit that description, I hold on to what Paul says in Romans 7:24-25…”What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is often in those times that I am reminded of how despirately in need of a Savior I really am. Which oddly seems to draw me closer to God…which I think is the point.

    I think the greatest heartbreak for me in reading your comment was when you said that the “pain exceeds the resources for coping with the pain.” It seems to me that maybe the Church has failed you if that is the case, considering that I believe the whole point of the Church is to help resource people towards healing. I don’t think the Church is solely responsible for whether or not we heal, but I do believe we are responsible to sacrifice for the sake of people’s healing. And if everyone sacrifices something that someone else needs, I believe we would all see a different world.

    Sounds like you are in a VERY difficult place. It is a place that many people find themselves in, and ironically a whole lot of people in shoes similar to yours go to church on a regular basis.

    Where are we Church?!?!

  5. Rodmaster,

    Hi, Jay. You wrote:
    “You simply become what I have often heard you say you hate…a shallow mouthpiece of the church. If what you are saying is true, I guess I don’t understand!?!”

    I am a mouthpiece of the church, I don’t deny that. I don’t understand it either. It keeps me awake every night.

  6. Well brother, let me give you a piece of advise. It is better to work in the Halls of WalMart, than it is to not be able to sleep at night in the Service of the Church. If you are heartbroken over the ministry and the depths of man depravity and loss…then that is normal, but not this.

    Freedom and peace are the results of the Gospel and Christ’s sacrifice, not this…now I’m going to be up at night…

  7. Jamie

    A couple of thoughts…

    I know that I am often much harder on myself than anyone else, especially God, would be. Surrendering my expections of myself
    is a huge battle…so you are probably right about me giving myself the “black eyes”…

    The other thing is, when you have been hurt/abandoned by people (“the Church”) you thought cared for you, it’s so difficult to reach out when you are struggling. I know you know this, I’m just putting it into words for myself. I make excuses for not having a “church” right now but the truth is I don’t really trust that I won’t be ignored or worse yet, minimized. On the other hand though, what am I doing to be “the Church” for someone else? Their failure certainly doesn’t excuse mine.

  8. Well said Shelly. And it’s your caution and humility that I believe will help you to have a bigger impact on the “Church” than many people who are attending a church, regardless of whether or not you go to one yourself. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I will be up tonight, also! Dreaming up more falsehoods that make it seem like I still believe in this. Whatever this is.

    My life seems to reflect the by line of one of my favorite blogs – “Keep it real, or at least fake it convincingly”

  10. Reply to: Surrender and Repentance
    I agree with you comments on Honesty.

    As for Control, how much should one try to control their life, and pursue their interests? Where does the line fall between living your dreams and aspirations, and being an egotistical control freak living in a self made dream world?

  11. Machiavelli,

    I believe that’s a fine line. The difference in my mind is between using our gifts and talents to be co-creators of something new and beautiful in our lives, the lives of others, and even creation itself; and using our gifts and talents to protect ourselves at the expense of the glory of God in our lives, other’s lives and creation. I believe we were granted a certain amount of control over a lot of things in this world. In Genesis the scriptures even say that we are called to rule over the earth. It’s when we demand control because we’re afraid, that we begin to have problems. If we must have control, we will inevitably make a mess of things.

    Control in order to co-create…not to try and be the Creator.

    Thanks for your comments. Good to hear from you.

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