I’m taking a class called ‘Spirituality for Church Leaders’ and it’s kind of a double-edged sword for me. I know that I need to experience more ways to connect with God, but at the same time I’m very reserved and suspicious of new things. While I’m learning new ways to pray and express myself in the presence of my Creator, I’m also running this mix tape through my mind: Is this really going to make a difference? Is that too far into the unknown? What if someone sees me? Do I need to do this, or can I get away with less?
One of my biggest struggles came last week as Dr. Johnson sat in the front of the class, gently stroked his snow-white beard, and then instructed us to write a prayer of confession: “I want you to write down everything you need to confess to God.” Part of his wisdom (and a source of my frustration) is that he doesn’t go into great detail with these things – whatever we feel we need to do, we’re to do it.
Truthfully, while I knew that God knew all that I did, my having to admit those errors was difficult. I sat staring at my sheet of paper for what seemed like ages, mulling over the assignment: Do I write down what I feel guilty about, or do I write down the easy stuff that won’t be too bothersome to admit? How much confessing can I do and still make it count? What exactly do I need to confess? What if someone finds this sheet of all my sins?
I know, too, what constitutes a sin, so this confession thing shouldn’t be that hard. The things that hurt me, the things that hurt others, the things that hurt God – those are sins. The things that are not done with love, the words spoken in resentment, the cold shoulders given to people I don’t like – those are sins. Putting love of others or things before my love of God, desiring more than I have (and not being thankful for any of it), being jealous that so-and-so is spending more time with others than me – those are sins.
I know what sins are because I do them all the time. But I’m not good at telling God all about it. When I was a child, I accidentally broke the car antenna off of a neighbor’s car. Immediately after it happened I began to cry because I knew I’d have to tell my parents, and I’d get in trouble, so I tried my best to make it look like nothing happened. When I sin, I feel guilt and remorse, but it doesn’t always push me into confession…because if I confess, I’m going to have to face the consequences. I’m more afraid of God’s wrath than I am at understanding that I have a loving God who’s ready to forgive.
One of the great things we do in the Presbyterian church is a prayer of confession – it’s a time to reflect on our lives and admit where we’ve missed the mark. I’ve come to appreciate this time because I don’t do it often enough in my life. I don’t readily acknowledge where and when I’ve sinned (because if you don’t admit it, it didn’t happen…right?).
One of the other great things we have is “a strong affirmation of trust in the forgiving grace of a loving God.” In this time of affirmation we are assured that God loves us, is more than willing to forgive us, and welcomes us with open arms.
As I get more comfortable with confession, I know that I’ll get more comfortable with God’s love. And vice versa. I learned with my parents that I need to tell them everything because they love me and want to help me be better, do better, and live better. The same goes with God – I need to confess where I’ve made a mess and receive the gift of forgiveness. May I be strong enough to confess my sins, and may I be weak enough to admit I need God’s love.
much love. sheth.
 The Theology and Worship Ministry Unit, Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), 89.