The Invitation of Repentance

When I was in college I struggled deeply with a sense of shame. This may sound strange, but I used to feel physical pain, a sort strangling sensation because I wanted to check my college post office box all the time. Email was still dawning and an actual P.O. Box was where I heard from friends and family. I thought I felt a "conviction" from God to stop checking it all the time because I wasn’t “finding my sufficiency in Him.” 

This was not the Holy Spirit.

In reality, I felt strangling shame that something was existentially wrong with me and my need to connect with others. This was me conflating my own shame with what I thought was the voice of God. Later in my journey, as I experienced more healing, the voice of God's repentant call sounded more like inviting me out of isolating patterns and into deeper vulnerability and connection with others. That was the repentance I needed all along, it had nothing to do with my mailbox. In this way, shame can cloud the clarity of God's voice. 

The most detrimental part of conflating shame and God's voice is that we can't hear where we are guilty, thus, we miss our life-giving call toward repentance. I was guilty of isolating patterns (and pride of not wanting to share my weakness). Turning away (repenting) from this was the healing I needed! 


Guilt says: You are doing something wrong
Shame says: You are something wrong

The beauty of healing this shame has been that I've come to deeply appreciate God's call toward repentance. In more recent years, Lent has become my most longed for liturgical season. God's intimate call toward repentance has become the most life-giving voice I've come to recognize on my spiritual journey. I now understand it as an invitation, a call toward a new way. As I open myself up to see from God's loving perspective, that which I must turn from becomes less enticing. 

But why does that even matter?  When we can discern the difference between guilt and shame we can more readily hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Is there anything more important than that? This voice comes from Love itself, creating the world from nothing for the pure joy of relationship, the One who moves the arc of history toward redemption. With all the other voices out there in the world that are so much less, is there any reason I would not want this Voice calling me toward the Best Way and away from my own?

This is the invitation of repentance. 


______ ___ ______

Lisa Sleezer Timberline Knolls

Kimberly Pelletier is the registry Chaplain at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. Her writing has been featured in Christianity Today,, The Mudroom, and The Redbud Post, and special projects through Loyola Press and Herald Press. She is also the Director of Soul Care at The Mansio Center in Glen Ellyn, Illinois where she offers spiritual direction, workshops and retreats. Because of her own ongoing story of healing she is passionate about encountering suffering as the place of invitation to deep healing and grace through creative and embodied spiritual practice. 

Author: Kimberly Pelletier

Tags: Guilt, Shame, Christian, Mental Health, Timberline Knolls

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