Kathleen Norris, a poet and writer, likes to expose children in Sunday school to the Psalms, ancient poetry and prayers that express the full range of human emotion from David and others who sought to be faithful to God and were honest to express their struggles along with their praise.

The Psalms were Jesus’ own prayer book, from which he often quoted.     

After having the children read and absorb them, Norris invites them to write one of their own. She has found that children who are picked on by their big brothers and sisters are good at writing “cursing” psalms (those that call on God to smite an enemy). Letting the children write such psalms allowed them to work through their desires for vengeance in a healthy way.

One little boy wrote a poem called “The Monster Who was Sorry.” He began by admitting he hates it when his father yells at him. His response in the poem is to throw his sister down the stairs, and then to wreck his room, and finally to wreck the whole house.

The poem concludes: “Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself, I shouldn’t have done that.”

Norris comments: “‘My messy house’ says it all; with more honesty than most adults could have mustered, the boy made a metaphor for himself that admitted the depth of his rage, and also gave him a way out. This young boy was well on the way toward repentance, not such a monster after all, but only human.”

On the church calendar, we are in the season of Lent, a 40-day period of preparation before the great celebration of Easter. Some fast, some take on new disciplines, to examine the ways we fall short of being who God has called us to be, and then confess the ways we have turned from God which has led to sin, doing things we shouldn’t have and not doing what we should have. 

Having confessed, we then receive God’s forgiveness, and allow the undeserved grace and love of God to turn us around (the meaning of repentance), so that we can live in harmony with God and others, receiving the life of abundance God intends for all God’s children.

Thomas Keating, Catholic priest and theologian, describes repentance as “changing the direction in which we are looking for happiness.”

Our culture seduces us into thinking happiness is all about comfort and lots of material goods, but without God in our lives, what looks promising can’t deliver. 

As we look forward to Easter, regardless of how faithful or not you’ve been, or how far away from God you may feel, take time to look at your own life and where you are looking for happiness, and then consider if it can truly deliver. 

All the churches and pastors I know would be happy to have you explore with them what it looks like to receive God’s love and grace, letting that love turn you around so that your life can be lived with God, encouraged by all of us other sinners who are continually humbled and surprised by God’s amazing grace.

Rev. Christine Herrin is the senior pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton.