Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Confess your sins just not to me

I like to consider myself a person people can (and do!) talk to about anything. I was in the grocery store recently, just trying to buy some mangoes, when a lady came out of nowhere and told me her newly divorced, had an affair, now afraid God hates her, story. I looked down. Nope. I wasn't wearing my "Tell me all your secrets out loud!" T-Shirt. So, I listened. I'm not really that friendly. I never initiate conversations in public unless you're at Petsmart too with a cute puppy. Then we're BFF.

She hugged me and said, "Thank you so much." Ahh....sure! And she left. It was so surreal that I forgot my mangoes! Darn it!

I come from a church tradition that basically made fun of organized confession. Why say out loud what Jesus is perfectly capable of hearing from your prayer closet? Made sense to me because I didn't know any better. And I did. I confessed my sins, but never publicly. Not that I had big sins, but oh right, that doesn't matter.

Easter this past year was a bandage being ripped off my spiritual life so the healing could begin. I'm not sure that season will ever mean as much to me as it did this year. It seemed especially fitting that Easter was so late. I felt like I was experiencing every slow, painful, step to the cross. It was equally miserable and wonderful.

My church hears confessions at Easter. My first thought? Thanks, but no thanks. Then they just kept mentioning it until I finally agreed. That's a post for another day, but it was nothing and everything like I'd hoped.

This is the first season of my life in a church tradition that practices confession (in the pew) at every service. At first I found it a little much. Are we really saying all that on Sunday AND Wednesday? How much sin could I really have accumulated in 3 days? (OUCH! Was that the Holy Spirit kicking me in the head? Yes, yes it was). Now I'm not really sure what I did without it. I so look forward to those quiet repentant moments. It helps me keep short accounts and continually restores my relationship with God.

And it's so powerful. There's something so humbling about kneeling with 100 other people and repeating the same confession. There's something freeing about saying out loud, "I have sinned." Not, "Hey, God do you know what THEY did?" but, "I have sinned. . . .in what I've done and what I've failed to do." I probably need that reminder more than twice a week.

I take my confessions to God, once a year to the leadership of my church, and occasionally out loud to those I trust the most to speak truth into this life. It makes me feel crazy vulnerable, but even more free. We learn through confession that frailty is the great equalizer of the human condition.

The truth will set you free. In church, in your prayer closet, at Starbucks with a friend, and maybe even in the produce isle at Publix.


Penelopepiscopal said...

How nice that you were there just when she needed to let go of a burden!

Brenda said...

that stuff happens to me ALL the time. No kidding.

Meredith Gould said...

I was raised in a tradition (Judaism) where sins were confessed and repented before God in one swelled foop on Yom Kippur. I thought the regular confession thing was a bit...onerous. As a practicing (read with irony) Roman Catholic, I have experienced extended moments of transcendence during and because of formal confession both from the pew during Mass and face-to-face during formal Reconciliation.