Before I left on my mission I was working with my Branch President to resolve a couple of transgressions. I did what I needed to do, and left on my mission. I’ve since worked with my bishops to repent of various things that come up, but it wasn’t until this past Sunday that I fully understood repentance.
Imagine, if you will a gorgeous home with a beautiful white carpet that you swear twinkles silver in the right light. One day, you come home from a hunting trip and forget to take your shoes off as you sneak in late at night. The next morning you hear a wail coming from the hallway. You run out to find your wife staring at the muddy, maybe even bloody (you were hunting, right?) boot tracks going from the garage, into the kitchen, to the bathroom, then right into the bedroom. You made a mess, and it has to be cleaned!
In the traditional view of repentance you clean the boot prints, maybe even hire a professional carpet cleaner, or even replace some carpet! The problem is taken care of, and you vow to never come inside with muddy boots again.
Call it revelation. Call it actually reading the manual, but this last Sunday I had a spark of personal revelation about repentance that makes it so much more than spot cleaning.
Chapter 19 of the Gospel Principles Manuel outlines the repentance process, and goes a step further than the tried and true final step of repentance, which is to “NEVER DO IT AGAIN.” Under the subheading, “We must keep the commandments of God.” It reads, “To make our repentance complete we must keep the commandments of the Lord. We are not fully repentant if we do not pay tithes or keep the Sabbath day holy or obey the word of wisdom. We are not fully repentant if we do not sustain the authorities of the Church and do not love the Lord and our fellowmen. If we do not pray and are unkind to others, we are surely not repentant. When we repent, our life changes.”
So, going back to our example, when we choose to clean the carpet and never bring our muddy boots inside again, to be truly repentant, we don’t only get those carpets spotlessly cleaned, but we work to keep the rest of the house clean as well. We vacuum the floors, clean the bathrooms, and dust the house. And not just the one time! We keep the house clean, and continually work to make sure it doesn’t fall into a state is disrepair. It is no longer about filthy boots, it is about our beautiful home.
Knowing this, I can look back on my life and see that I’ve never truly repented. Sure, I’ve improved my life overall, and I’ve made a lot of good choices, but I don't think I've ever become a "new creature” in Christ. (Mosiah 27:26, 2 Cor 5:17) I still have a long way to go. Now, it is my duty to clean my own proverbial house, and to keep it clean. I must learn to be Christlike to others, better keep the Sabbath day holy, watch my language, and a score of other things.
What it really comes down to is following the Savior's admonition found in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Only then can we become new men in Christ.