METANOIAs great and small

March 22, 2020 23:14

"Be repenting, for the kingdom of God/heaven is at hand." (Matt 4:17, Mk 1:15)

This verse is surely a perennial theme of Lent. Previously I’ve written about how there just isn’t a good English translation for the Greek word METANOIA (meh-TAH-nee-ah), generally translated ’repentence’. METANOIA means more along the lines of ’change of mind-set’, and I used the example of the drunk waking up in the gutter, having a religious conversion experience and never touching a drop of alcohol again. That’s an extreme (and marvelous) example of METANOIA, but I think we can routinely experience smaller METANOIAs every day. Indeed, the verb tense in this verse indicates that continual ’repentence’ is what’s in mind: "Be [continually] changing your mind-set", so to speak.

Clearly that’s a reason we come to church. In addition to other reasons (like fellowship), we come to church to have our mind-set’s renewed, to be reminded of the things of God and our heavenly and earthly priorities. That’s also a reason we engage in spiritual practices like daily prayer or Lectio Divina (close reading of Scripture).

The thing is, sudden, radically life-changing METANOIA — like the example of the drunk in the gutter — doesn't happen very often. Generally, personal METANOIA requires repetition – after all, repetition is required to learn most anything. So, speaking for myself, I come to church every week, and pray every day, and over time that mindset slowly seeps into my thick skull. "Wax on, wax off", "practice makes perfect", until it slowly sinks in.

The good news is that small METANOIAs are cummulative — like compound interest they can really add up. So I try to choose a small METANOIA I can actually do every day, and do it every day until it’s a habit (generally at least a month), then add a new small one. Better a small improvement than none at all!

In the well-known verse "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6), the word for ’way’ is hODOS (HAW-daws), which also means ’road’ and ’journey’. So we could translate this verse "I am the Journey..." Yea verily! So as I follow Him on this Journey, even when small improvements are all I can manage, I strive to be a little more like Him every day.

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