Repentance: The way of the spider.
It’s been some time since my last post. Summer plans have kept me quite busy but I aim to continue this blog. I honestly don’t have a great idea of who reads it but it definitely benefits me to write it.
So I returned from Uplift, a church camp on the campus of Harding University in Searcy, AR. Our youth group was definitely blessed at this camp where the theme was “Enough”, or more specifically, “God’s Love is Enough”. During this camp I was asked to teach a class on repentance as a supplemental topic to understanding what it really means that God’s love is enough for us.
To practice repentance is no walk in the park. It’s not an overly easy topic to teach on either. As I put together my class, I started to consider what the practice of true repentance really looks like and what its purpose is. In my class I reiterated several times that repentance is not a single-moment event. Growing up in the church and being taught about scriptures like Acts 2:38 always seemed to pair repentance with baptism. This fact made me think that repentance was what happened when a Christian asks for forgiveness or what they go through when someone decides they need to give up their life to Christ in baptism. While this wasn’t untrue, (I do believe that repentance first sparks in these moments) I now have an understanding that repentance is an ongoing process whose purpose is to transform the practitioner. Repentance is meant to achieve newness.
In my class, I talked about my fear of spiders. We get around just fine on 2 legs and for some reason these things need 8? I don’t trust them. They seem so alien to me. When I was young i found a daddy long-leg crawling up my shoulder and I flipped out. I once came very close to stepping on a massive tarantula on a mountain in Brazil. If you’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings movie with Shelob, you have a pretty good understanding of what I went through. I’ll always feign bravery to kill a spider for my wife but inside i’m screaming like a little girl.
In any case, I brought up spiders because tarantula’s go through a magnificent and puke-worthy molting process of their exoskeleton. For younger tarantulas this process takes place almost every month; for older tarantulas it occurs once every year or so. What’s fascinating is that in order to grow, these spiders have to shed their exoskeleton. They grow just a little bit larger each time.
The actual process starts when the tarantula develops a layer between the old exoskeleton and the newly developed exoskeleton called the “endocuticle” layer. Once this layer has completely separated the new and old exoskeletons, the tarantula begins to secrete a digestive enzyme that eats away at the endocuticle layer. After this layer is completely gone and there is complete separation of new and old exoskeletons (causing discoloration of the old exoskeleton) the spider creates a whole in its headpiece, its carapace. Once ready, the tarantula flips on its back or side and slowly pulls its head, body, and eight legs through this hole. Once out the tarantula is still very vulnerable as its new exoskeleton is soft. Its fangs are even soft so it will not eat for 1-3 weeks until this hardening process is complete. Here’s a quick time lapse video of the process.
After showing this video to my class, I began to compare and contrast the tarantula’s molting process with the process of repentance. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says…
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
There are similar verses about the putting off of the old and taking on the new in Christ in Colossians 3:1-10 and Ephesians 4:20-24. They hold this idea that being a follower of Christ necessitates change, a transformation. While we are often quick to think that baptism is THE transformation, living a repentant lifestyle is the path to the ongoing transformation. We aren’t butterflies…
While this shedding of the old self is painful, difficult, and leaves one vulnerable it is absolutely necessary to grow and to faithfully follow the teachings of Christ. Repentance is not a one-time event, it is a continual process. It is a spiritual discipline that is just as important as prayer or Bible study.