A few months ago my friend invited me to have lunch with her and one other friend of mine. Little did I know that lunch would begin a whole different journey for the three of us. She had this crazy idea that the three of us should try an accountable/confession group like the kind she had read about in Anatomy of the Soul. I told her in no uncertain terms that she was crazy and even more crazy for inviting me to be in a group like that. “I suck at repentance” were my exact words. She reminded me that I was the one who taught her about repentance. I hate it when God makes me live what I teach. Because these two women had taught me about repentance through their example, I agreed to be in this little group of three strands.
We decided to launch into deeper waters together trusting that God had life for us a little further out from the safety of the shore. We have been meeting every week for about two hours. My other friend and I were somewhat shocked when my crazy friend started writing down all of her sins from the week. However we were happy to listen and speak the truth of the gospel to her when she shared her list. But I knew the day would come when she would challenge us to do more than just listen. We would eventually need to bring our own lists. And so I have been contemplating confession…
Is this really what God meant when he said “confess your sins to one another?” Will there really be life in speaking the source my shame out loud? Are you sure this isn’t going to ruin my sweet friendship with these women? But God has been gently speaking to me about this and showing me that nothing that stays in the darkness can heal. It must be brought out into the light… painfully, ruthlessly drug into the light.
Last week though I learned something about myself, and it wasn’t pretty. After our group when I saw how I had hurt my friend once again, I struggled with shame for the rest of the day into the next day. When my sin is brought into the light, I feel shame. Shame over sin is healthy, but this kind of shame becomes toxic when accompanied by phrases like “I’ll never get it right” and “All I do is hurt people.” This leads me straight into my Orphan thinking where I start to feel unworthy and unloved and unacceptable. Personally, I hate feeling like an Orphan, so then my Ice Queen kicks in. She takes a vow to never feel that way again, so she spends her time analyzing what happened and justifying exactly why she did what she did. But ironically this does not absolve her shame. It only makes it worse because at the end of all her analysis and justification, the truth of her sin remains. And the truth is that she will mess it up again and hurt people again because she is broken. She is not perfect.
But the Princess cannot let the Ice Queen or the Orphan way of thinking reign. She takes the truth of what she did into the light with her loving King Father where He reminds her that her sin and shame was covered on the cross. She worships and asks Him to speak the truth to her about what happened, instead of letting the Ice Queen make her own truth. She, unlike the Orphan or the Ice Queen, can accept the grace that is freely offered to her in His presence. She believes that Jesus took her shame when He died on the cross. This is what my friends help me to remember to do. They urge me on into the throne room and will not let me wander the hall as an Orphan afraid to go in one more time. They will not let the Ice Queen stay on her throne of self-righteousness. They lovingly, compassionately push the Princess into the Throne Room of Grace.
False repentance is easy, but true repentance comes at a price. It hurts. That is what is so great about the gospel. Jesus decided that the pain and hurt He had to endure on my behalf was worth it. He paid the ultimate price of death, and when I believe in the work of the cross, His blood covers all my sin, past, present and future. As we have had opportunity to talk to some other people about our group, the question they ask is how do you keep the group from becoming self-focused? How do you overcome the shame and fear inevitably associated with speaking your sin out loud? The answer is THE GOSPEL. The point of the group is as much about confession as it is about preaching the gospel to each other. We get to be the hands and feet and face of Jesus to each other when our sin is drug into the light. In the light there is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. In the light, there is no accuser, only mercy and grace. In the light, we are fully known and fully loved.
So I’m still not sure how this little experiment will turn out, but my friends are showing me the value of confession. I would encourage you to bring your sin into the light. Maybe you need to start in the Throne Room of Grace with the King Father and believe that what Jesus did on the cross was enough to cover your sin. Maybe it starts with speaking the truth to one other person who can remind you of the truth of the gospel. Maybe you can find two crazy friends…
“And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his work is not in us.” (I John 1:4-10 ESV)