Lent is the season for coming out of the shadows and coming clean. It is also the season for being renewed and restored.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:19
By now, our practices of self-awareness, solitude, and the Prayer of Examen have done their work. As we have asked for light to pierce our darkness and defenses, we have been allowed to see the areas of our hearts where brokenness and sin still reside and have seeped into our daily lives.
Typically, our knee-jerk reaction to such revelations is to hide. We tenaciously resist being exposed. We are really committed to looking good…so we hide the truth from ourselves and from others. I think we often don’t want to admit these “unfinished places of our soul” because we have worked so hard to keep self-condemnation or divine condemnation at bay. If we give our brokenness room to show up, how would we ever recover?
So, what do we do with what we have noticed?
We have already come to understand that the ongoing, dynamic work of the Holy Spirit is to transform our fractured lives into the likeness of Jesus. He does all the heavy lifting: revealing, empowering, healing, etc. We are always invited to partner with the Holy Spirit in this grand work. Our partnership often comes through a spiritual practice (like self-awareness, the prayer of Examen, etc.). So, there has to be another practice in place to confront our sin that has nothing to do with any sort of condemnation but allows our sin to be converted into something redemptive.
This is where confession comes in. Confession is not telling Jesus what he already sees…it’s admitting that now we see it too. It is finally admitting we are frail, we cannot fix our own souls, and we are in need of redeeming grace to do what we cannot do. The good news is that grace (the activity of the Holy Spirit) has already been at work even before we were aware of or admitted our need.
Confession is a radical reliance on grace. If our understanding of grace (the redemptive activity of the Holy Spirit), however, is limited, our confession will be limited: reluctant, hesitant, hedged with excuses, and fearful of punishment. Confession is not as much about awareness of our great sin, but an awareness about a great Grace that is intent on our continued healing and wholeness.
Confession is a radical reliance on grace.
So, we see and confess our patterns of self-centeredness, self-sabotage, pride, envy, scarcity, avoidance, unforgiveness, detachment, hypocrisy, impatience, etc. (I could go on!). We have, thankfully, already come to realize we are not left to our own devices to deal with our brokenness.
However, we don’t stop at confession. What else do we need to do? Two things:
- Offer our brokenness to Jesus
- Make restitution to others.
We confess our disobedience, offenses, and sins, and then offer them to Jesus for Him to do what only He can do. We hand them over to the work of grace. But we don’t offer them one time. Confession and offering (just like forgiveness) are ongoing.
Our woundedness tends to make repeated appearances because it has become habituated in our souls. So, with each offense we still make, we confess again and again, and hand them over again and again. Every time we offer our woundedness, it becomes a point of healing. We continue to do this until grace has completed its work. With each point of healing, we become more and more who we were meant to be when God created us. Until we wake up one day to realize our woundedness no longer has free reign in our lives.
With each point of healing, we become more and more who we were meant to be when God created us.
The second thing we do is make restitution. Too often our woundedness is projected onto others; it pours out relationally. Confession is more than a confession of private sins to God; it must include making amends with those who we have hurt. Confession must include restoring relationships. This means asking forgiveness from our spouse (or children) after we have been on a rant; admitting how our need to be right, or our ego-driven criticism, or lack of empathy, has caused hurt….and asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness, giving, and receiving, are the natural rhythm of healthy relationships. God can’t do the work of redemption in you with the wall of unforgiveness intact.
So, what are we to do with what our self-awareness brings to light? Confess, offer, and restore. It is ongoing because we are human, and Grace invites us back again and again.
A Prayer of Confession: “Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor. Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” Prayer of Confession from the Book of Common Prayer
We are typically not familiar with the practice of confession. What sounds fearful? What sounds inviting?
How have you avoided confession in the past?
What do you need to confess, offer, and restore today? To God? To others?
Read Psalm 31 this week and make it personal.