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By Mike Ruffin Many Christians observe the forty days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday as the season of Lent. The name ‘Lent’ comes from an old word meaning ‘to lengthen,’ and, since the days get longer in the spring, it came to name that season. Lent is a season of repentance that is often accompanied by fasting. It being that time of year, I’ve been thinking about what I need to repent of. (Some of you will say that I need to repent of ending that sentence with a participle. I’m sorry, but ‘about that of which I need to repent’ is too highfalutin for my taste.) Let’s set my grammatical sins aside and move on to what I really do need to repent of. To repent means to turn away from something, but it also means to turn toward something else. So I’ll also mention the positive changes I need to make. I need to repent of self-centeredness. I need to stop thinking of myself as much as I do. I need to stop putting myself first in my list of concerns. I need to turn toward empathy. I need to try to put myself in others’ place so I can attempt to see life from their perspective. I recognize that I neither can nor should stop thinking about myself. I also recognize that I can’t really see things as others do. But I can try. I can do better. I need to repent of dullness. I’m not talking about my personality. I’m talking about my mental laziness. Oh, I spend most of my waking hours editing, reading, and writing, so my brain stays active. But I’m too limited in what I deem possible. I need to turn toward imagination. I need to open my thinking up to ways I’ve never thought before and to possibilities I’ve never considered. I recognize that I can’t think about everything. I realize that my imagination has its limits. But I can do better at pushing toward them. I need to repent of despair. Too often I look at the way things are and I throw up my mental hands and say, ‘What’s the use?’ Sometimes I let myself think that if people really want to go down the road toward destruction, let them. I need to turn toward hope. I need to believe that change is possible. I need to keep working toward a better world. I know that sometimes I’ll get discouraged, but I also know that I’”that we’”can’t give up and can’t stop trying. I need to repent of assumption. I’m guilty of assuming that I’m right, which means that I’m guilty of assuming that other people are wrong. I need to turn toward humility. I need to stop and consider the very real possibility that I’m wrong. The problem is with my first thought. That is, I tend to automatically assume that my attitude, position, and opinion are correct. I need to analyze what I think and what others think about an issue, and then, taking all the evidence I can muster into account, make a decision. If I need to change my mind, so be it. If I was right to begin with, so be it. Maybe you need to turn away from similar ways of thinking. Maybe you need to turn toward similar ways of thinking. Hopefully, if we will by God’s grace and by our best efforts move toward thinking in more gracious and loving ways, we’ll also move toward living in more gracious and loving ways. This kind of living takes much energy and great effort. But it’s worth it.

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