Lent: Repent, “Turn Away”


Until yesterday I had always thought of repentance as contrition, in the sense of feeling bad about my sins, bemoaning all the bad things I had done. I had thought of it as entirely oriented on the past.

Reading about Lent I learnt that repentance had another, future-oriented, sense.

In the Wikipedia entry on repentance:

Generally in the Old Testament the term repentance comes from the Hebrew word group that means “turn away from.”[3]:1007 Sometimes this word group is employed to request a turning from sinful activity (Jeremiah 8:6). In the New Testament the μετανοέω/metanoeo word group can mean remorse but is generally translated as a turning away from sin (Matthew 3:2).[3]:1007

[3] T.C. Mitchell, ‘Repentance’ New Bible Dictionary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996): 1007–8.

And in my Oxford Companion to the Bible:

The phrase “turn away from” really hit me.

For one thing, it means the Bad Thing is already in front of me. It doesn’t mean, “don’t do X” or “you used to do X, in future you mustn’t”. It means something more like, “you are doing X now — stop it!” or “you are about to do X — take a detour!” It seems very immediate. It also seems to say, “it’s not too late.” It seems perfect for when temptation comes and finds me.

The physicality of the phrase also — almost shocked me. Physically turn away from what I am doing, from what I am looking at.


I read the Wikipedia entry on my phone on the bus into town and was quite disturbed by the phrase “turn away from” and everything it was stirring up inside me.

The bus stopped and a babe in leggings walked past me to get off. Without thinking my eyes went to her behind. The phrase was there, “turn away”. Again without thinking I found myself looking out the window.

In town my bad habit of eyeing up women was confronted again and again with this phrase. If my gaze had latched on to some woman in front of me it would lift my gaze away. It even seemed to work pre-emptively: if I sensed a temptation in the corner of my visual field, this phrase would find me something to look at in the other direction. Writing in the cafe I would sit and write. Walking along the street I would look where I was going and think about what I was doing.

I was in town today again. Both days the phrase was with me, helping me.

So “Turn Away” is my Word For Lent. I am going to hold on to it tightly, and it is going to help me “give up” eyeing up women.

Why do I want to write about all this cringe-worthy stuff here?

  • Wrestling with these issues is the whole point of the blog and of this online persona.
  • Taking the time and care to write up these experiences and decisions (hopes), makes them firmer in my mind.
  • If any “fellow sufferers” pass by and read, it might help them.
  • Words of support and encouragement are always welcome of course :) anytime :)
  • Words of admonition and correction are also always welcome. I want to learn, I can take criticism and new ideas, and if necessary, I can disagree in a respectful and friendly way.
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  1. I’ve heard of a strategy called “bouncing your eyes” when it comes to the “lust of the eyes.” And it seems like that’s what you’re talking about here when you say, “turn away from.” So this really must be a valuable and effective way to resist any temptation if you and others are finding it works. It makes sense that we must turn from what stirs the sin or lust in us toward finding something to look at that is good. So my question to you is, what is the good that you’re looking toward? I know you’ve talked about this in various conversations before, but I’d love to hear your thoughts based on this new discovery, my friend.

    • Dear Beth

      Thank you for your comment. That is a good question.

      I think in the instant, what my eyes turn toward doesn’t seem important. It literally feels like my eye muscles being flicked to the side. Where they land feels random: a bit of sky, a tree, the corner of a building. It can’t be entirely random because my gaze never jumps onto another woman.

      The “turn toward” is happening but in a different way. When bored or anxious my default “turn” has always (for a long time) been to pornography or lustful fantasies. Increasingly at these times I find myself not in a pornographic “headspace” but in a Christian headspace. When washing the dishes or waiting for the bus I might think of a Psalm or piece of Scripture I’ve learnt, or read the day’s reading from your study group.

      For example, the last few days my wife has been away. Previously I would be in panties and bra as much as possible and watching porn at bedtime. This time I have “indulged” myself by catching up with your reading group, writing a couple of blog posts here, spending “downtime” surfing Christian blogs from my @unnameab73 account, and at bedtime I’ve read a Christian paperback. It has all felt like a delicious treat. My wife returns today, so most of that will go back in the closet, but I am not quite the same person I used to be.


    • Thank you for “bouncing your eyes”! I’ve just googled it. Lots of good links.

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