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There is no Repentance without Risk and Vulnerability

There’s a powerful scene in a novel written by the South African writer Alan Paton. The story centers on a young police lieutenant, husband, and father named Pieter. Pieter struggles with depression, he has what we would call “father issues,” and he’s on the verge of an affair with a younger woman. His wife and children are out of town so he goes to see his good friend, a man nicknamed Kappie. Among other things the two friends share an interest in the hobby of stamp collecting.

Pieter shows up intending to humble himself, to repent, and to make a full confession of his struggles, his temptations. As Alan Paton writes, Peiter knows what he should say: “[Kappie], I am here to tell you of the deep misery of my life, and you must help me … before I am destroyed … you must tell me something in God’s name.” But he said none of those things. Instead, Pieter nonchalantly lies about why he really came: “Kappie, I’m sick of the empty house, and I’m wanting to see some stamps.” So they listen to music and look at stamps. Kappie knew that his friend had something deeper on his mind. So when Pieter started to leave Kappie said, “You can come every night if you wish.” But Pieter walks out and does not return. And Alan Paton writes, “Ah, if he could have told … And yet he could not tell.” Pieter wants repentance without risk, without cost, without vulnerability.

Possible Preaching Angles:

Repentance requires vulnerability. To repent means to open my heart to God and to others and say, “I’m in over my head and I need you.”


Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope (Scribner, 2011), pages 137-138

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