I was hiding, although I don’t like to admit it. It’s a beautiful thing to be vulnerable, to trust another with my story, to let myself be real. But at what cost?
Will she still like me?
Will he still want to be my friend after he hears what I’ve done, what I do?
Justin shared with me how a friend of his set him straight one day, regarding confession. True confession is beauty and power all in one. Confession is truth, the nitty-gritty truth. Confession is the truth that when you tell it, you feel the sting.
Friendship and community mean being honest with one another. We lay sin out on the table. And Jesus, in His mercy, in His grace, picks it up and covers us with His blood. Trying to cover ourselves through hiding, through telling half-truth confessions, but not the naked story, is not believing in what Jesus did for us.
I know how difficult–how scary and risky–it can feel to trust. But if there is an opportunity, in a safe place, to share the truth, the naked truth, with a friend, what else can you do? Might it still, possibly, despite the sting, be worth the risk?
By trying to cover ourselves, in our pride, and hiding our sin from friends, we are forgetting (and thus rejecting) how Jesus was stripped bare: First, when He was born as a man, and then, again, in His sacrifice on the cross–His taking on all our sin.
If we love Jesus, don’t we need to be naked, too? Don’t we need to trust a little more, let Him cleanse us and abolish pride and worship of our self-image by confessing, truly confessing, to whom He brings?
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed (James 5:16).
In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes,
Confession in the presence of another believer is the most profound kind of humiliation. It hurts, makes one feel small; it deals a terrible blow to one’s pride . . . but we cannot find the cross of Jesus if we are afraid of going to the place where Jesus can be found, to the public death of the sinner.
So this time, when I confess, I must not hide behind platitudes, generalities.
Rather than saying, “Oh, I confess I have issues with control”, I must confess: When my boys were supposed to be getting ready for football but were goofing off and running back and forth from the front porch into the living room with their cleats on, I yelled and told them they were driving me crazy and locked them out of the house.
Rather than saying, “I get angry at my kids sometimes,” I must confess that I resent chaos, loudness, the kids not listening to me, and the love I show them is often conditional. I resent the tough stuff of parenting. I want them to listen, and I get mad when they don’t.
Rather than saying, “My husband is pushing me towards the Father and it is good, but I’m having a hard time with it”, I must confess that we argued in the kitchen and I resent that he loves me so much that he fights for my heart, wanting me to trust the Father more, surrender more, die to these sins that hurt our kids and our marriage. I can be bitter towards him because ‘yes’, I want to change, but I don’t want to do the hard work of it all.
Saying these words aloud, face to face, in community–and here, to you, Holy Entangled, convicts me: Being anything but naked about my sin is not what Jesus plans for me. It is not what He plans for you.
Those who merely hate tribulation, renunciation, distress, defamation, imprisonment in their own lives, no matter how grandiosely they may otherwise speak about the cross, these people in reality hate the cross of Jesus and have not found peace with God. But those who love the cross of Jesus Christ, those who have genuinely found peace in it, now begin to love even the tribulations in their lives, and ultimately will be able to say with scripture, ‘We also boast in our sufferings’ (Bonhoeffer, “Discipleship and the Cross,” Bread and Wine).
I must go where I don’t want to go. I must be real, my heart stripped naked, completely open before my God. And when I hide the truth of my heart to my friends but say I love community, I am a hypocrite. I care more about my image, how my friends perceive me, than Jesus coming and releasing me from these sins of my heart.
I want breakthrough to new life. I want to hate my sin, not hold onto it. I want “everything to become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and so I must trust Him with my sin and I must confess. And when I confess to another person, I am letting go of the pride that wants to hide the sin. I am humbling myself before Him, saying I can’t do this on my own. I’ve messed up. I need you. Please forgive me and make me new.
There is so much hope here, Holy Entangled. I try to be real with friends now, after years of speaking in generalities and hiding. There is freedom and beauty in saying I don’t have it all together–and this is what it looks like–but my Father does. And I trust Him. I choose Him.
In being naked, I say ‘yes’ to needing Him, and the community He brings, around me.
Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
you get a fresh start,
your slate’s wiped clean.
Count yourself lucky—
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.
When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.
The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.
Then I let it all out;
I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”
Suddenly the pressure was gone—
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.
(Psalm 32:1-5, MSG)
Holy Entangled, how do you feel about this sting of confession? How is it uncomfortable? How does it usher in joy and hope? How can we pray for you?