A Call to Return Home
By Becca Stevens
“Repent, then, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.” (Acts 3:19)
At Thistle Farms, it is our mission to heal, empower, and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. Our community believes that in every mistake, there is potential for healing. Nothing a person can do will close the door forever with God and with a loving community- even if that person feels beyond redemption, is put back in prison, or cannot find sobriety in this life. Our practice is simple: take a step back, apologize, make amends, learn something new, and move on.
Once, one of our residents relapsed after she had been in our community for more than a year. During that time, she borrowed money she would never pay back. She stole from her friends, and lied to them too. The damage to her relationships was like a tsunami of destruction. Her downward spiral of devastation ended when she found herself back in prison. One of the first steps on her journey to restoration was to write letters to those she had hurt to say how sorry she was for the things she had done.
Sometimes, the pain in our lives comes from our own thoughts, words, and deeds. In those moments, we must embrace the truth that healing often begins with repentance. In Acts 3:19, Paul challenged his readers to “Repent, then, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.” It is language that rings familiar for lovers of the Old Testament. In Ezekiel chapter 14, the prophet challenges Israel’s wayward elders to cast away their idols, and return to their God. “…Repent and turn away from your idols… (Ezekiel 14:6).” Here, the Hebrew word for repent indicates more than a challenge to live differently. It is a call to “return home.”
When we humbly and wholeheartedly repent of the things we have done, as well as the things we have left undone, we find we are once again able to love with our whole hearts. Repentance clears the way for us to enjoy restored relationship with each other.
And through the gift of repentance, we once again rest in God’s great love…our one true home.
When our friend slipped back into her former destructive lifestyle, she deeply hurt those who loved her most. Sadly, she has years in prison ahead of her. Her time behind bars which will afford her the opportunity to build bridges over the trouble waters she stirred during the season in which she wandered away from love. Yet, she may still make it home. The door to healing and reconciliation is open to her because she understands that true freedom is rooted in repentance and forgiveness.
Anoint my head with the balm of peace, and set me on the right path. Give me courage to get back up when I stumble. Give me the eyes to see Your hand at work in the world around me. Teach me to pray for others even in my own suffering. Show me how to love again from the deepest part of my heart and with my whole being. Amen.
Becca Stevens is an author, speaker, Episcopal priest, justice entrepreneur, and founder and president of Thistle Farms (Nashville, TN). Thistle Farms is the largest social enterprise in the U.S. led by survivors of prostitution, addiction, and trafficking. Her latest book is Love Heals (Thomas Nelson). Follow Becca on twitter @RevBeccaStevens or visit BeccaStevens.org and ThistleFarms.org.