Love invites us to change

How does healing and transformation come to broken people?

In her novel, Crooked Little Heart, Anne Lamott writes about Rosie. Those watching her play tennis saw a girl “thirteen years old and seventy wiry pounds, hitting the ball as hard as almost any man they knew, thick black curls whipping, Siamese blue eyes steely, impassive, twenty bullets in a row, over the net and in, frowning almost imperceptibly if she missed.”

But Rosie has a secret. tennis line callShe has been cheating on close line calls to win crucial tennis matches. Her shame grows as she is unable to stop herself— she’s trapped by her compulsion to win.

Another character in the book is “a man named Luther who had started following the girls from tournament to tournament.” Rosie soon realizes that Luther sees her cheating but that he will not tell. Instead he identifies with her: “I did what you did.” And invites her to change. As they continue talking, Rosie calls herself a cheater. “No,” he says, “you cheated.” Her identity doesn’t need to be one who cheats. She is one who makes choices and can make different choices.

She begins to change. In a championship game, Luther sees her call a line shot correctly and stands up to leave. “Aren’t you going to stay and watch Rosie win?” her mother asks. “I already have,” he responds.

All of us have places where we are broken, ways we fudge the game of life for our favor at the cost of neighbors. Things we want to hide. Into our world comes one who spends even more time watching us than Luther. He sees all, and the sin in our life. He knows how easy and natural it is, and how destructive and hurtful, and calls us to change, to “repent.” Not with a threat to bring in the sportsmanship committee—“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world.” But like Luther to Rosie: in love, inviting us to turn from choices that diminish life and turn toward the life that will be lived in the coming new heaven and earth.

Our tendency when someone does wrong is to pressure them, to face them with consequences, make it so they are forced to change. But Jesus looks deeper and takes an opposite tactic. He wants persons to choose the new, to want it from their heart. Love forced is not the love he desires. So he continues to come, even to us sinners. He gives us his Word, teaching us. And gives his Spirit, prompting us toward right choices. When we spurn him, he keeps on reaching out to us. When we turn and confess our sin, he forgives us. And then if we sin again, he in love tries again.

That’s how Jesus brings healing to broken people like us. So should we.