May 25, 2016
There is not one of us who doesn’t carry around secret sins (or “indiscretions” for those who don’t like the word ‘sin’). Do you know what I mean? Things from our past that we have never told anyone, or maybe only a few. And it doesn’t have to be from your past right? It can be your VERY REAL, VERY AWKWARD present. Your sin could be illegal, or immoral, or just plain embarrassing. I doubt that it will take much effort to remember a few. Most of us carry them around in a special compartment in our brain entitled “dumb things I have done” or “things I would like to forget, but can’t.”
One wonders how these memories affect us. Some people, I suspect, live in perpetual guilt. Others seem to move on with few thoughts or concerns for their previous indiscretions. And there must be many places in between those two extremes.
Many years ago I worked at a counseling center where we dealt primarily with drug abusers (including alcohol which of course IS A DRUG!). We ran small groups of 10-12 people where we asked leading questions that allowed group members to be drawn out and freely express feelings about various things in their lives. On one occasion we did an exercise that began with these questions, “Is there anything you have done in your life that you have never told anyone about? If so, would you like to share it now in the safety of this group?” Honestly, I didn’t really think it was going to go anywhere. I mean it was really scary and asked for people to be more vulnerable than they had ever been in their lives. I was surprised when, slowly but surely, one story after another came pouring out of the group members. Quite honestly many of them were sexual. But the one that is seared into my memory was of a 19 year old who, with tears pouring down his face, told us of setting his neighbors house on fire when he was 6 by playing with matches. Everyone in the house died. He was never discovered and had never told a soul. Imagine carrying THAT around in your psyche for 13 years! All through elementary school. All through Jr. High School. All through High School. What must he have felt each time he looked at the empty lot beside his house? I know, I can’t imagine either!
We may not have things in our past like that, but I know we all have “stuff.” Some of us really need to unburden ourselves of some of these things. It can be cathartic. “Cathartic” is a Greek word that comes to us through Latin and it means “purging or cleansing.” In this context it means the cleansing of dreadful thoughts and memories that haunt us and cause us emotional and spiritual harm. Did you know that the Scripture commands us to confess our sins to one another?
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
The second part of this verse from James is often misunderstood. It does not mean that because a person is “righteous,” God must or does listen to their prayers in a way that He does not listen to others thus the prayers become powerful and effective. I believe it means that BECAUSE someone IS righteous they will pray in God’s WILL, thus their prayers will, by definition, be powerful and effective. Does that make sense?
So, I have an idea… for the sake of emotional healing let’s confess our deepest darkest secrets to one another. The things we have never told anyone. The things that we fear others will discover and cause them to lose all respect for us or worse… hate us. Ready? You go first…. Go ahead… I’m waiting…. EXACTLY!!!! It requires a lot to do that and maybe the biggest need is extraordinary TRUST. Trust given and trust received. Truthfully, I suspect most of us are wise not to trust others with our most intimate thoughts. Why? Because we are fallen and sinful human beings… all of us. Others might say “I can handle it” but it’s possible they cannot. Being privy to the deep brokenness of those we love and care about may indeed cause some of us to lose respect that we never regain. That doesn’t seem right does it? And yet we are all part of the broken creation that is other than what God intended.
Please understand what I am trying to say. I AM NOT saying we shouldn’t confess to others…. Just the opposite. I am however, saying that we should be very wise in choosing who those “others” might be. If your confession to someone is going to cause irreparable harm, they may not be a good choice. 12 step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous require that those following the program must work toward,
“8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Notice the last few words in step 9… “except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Our confessions and our confessors need to be dealt with and chosen wisely and tenderly. And not to anyone’s detriment!
I don’t want to lose sight of what I am saying. Find someone suitable to talk to and confess your sin. It will cleanse your soul. If you are without sin… well, I don’t know what to say other than, “Hey Jesus… I didn’t know you read this stuff!”