Saturday, July 24, 2010
The Sin that Hushes Us, The Confession that Heals Us
Years ago I briefly served as a pastor in a small town setting. Wanting to get to know some of the other pastors I called one them and we agreed we'd meet in his study at his church. All I knew about him was he was a Methodist pastor and that he had what I believe was a ""glass eye."I walked in to his office and, being a lover of books, I perused his shelves while striking up conversation. At one point, early in the visit, I saw two copies of the same book, and, without thinking, blurted, "Oh, one for each eye." He looked at me with his one good eye and smiled uncomfortably. I inwardly groaned upon realizing my faux pas and silently begged God to vaporize me in a flash of spontaneous combustion.
We all say and do things we regret, don't we.
I watched a wedding where the groom was obviously very nervous and worried about memorizing his vows and when he was to say what. The minister introduces the service and in formal fashion declares to all in attendance, " These two people come now to be joined in holy matrimony. If any one has a just cause or reason why they may not be lawfully joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace." The nervous groom recites, "I do." Oops.
We all say and do things we wish we could retract.
Some of those are light-hearted and the source of laughter at reunion reminiscings. But some we regard as unspeakable and we are determined to take them to our grave. We fear judgment if we were to give voice to that which is so shameful. "What would someone think of me if the secret ever got out?" "I would die if someone knew!" The problem is, it might kill me if I don't tell someone.
That stuff we stuff, whether sin or dysfunction, is toxic. There are two sins that buy our silence--grave indiscretions done by us and horrible things done to us. Either can be lethal if swallowed. It's poison.
This past week I had a number of suspicious-looking spots on my skin biopsied. Having a history of basal cell carcinoma--skin cancer-- I know how cancer can silently extend its tentacles under the surface. If cancer, regardless of its form, is present it must be excised. Denial only postpones the inevitable. There are some "cancers" you can't biopsy--cancer of the soul, cancer of the spirit. You can't biopsy it and send it to a lab. These cancers are no less lethal. These cancers are removed, not by scalpel or chemo, but by speaking them. My silence merely gives them more poswer. And the more power they exert the more fearful I become and entrench myself more deeply in my shameful silence. It's a cruel cycle---but a curse that can be broken.
I must and can give voice to it. I need to give voice to my sins of commission--unloving acts, words and thoughts I've exercised against another. I need to confess my sins of omission--my neglect that evokes regret, those loving actions I have withheld. To do either is certainly not without risk. We need to have a safe person to whom we confess. This may take months if not years to cultivate, but the freedom and buoyancy of spirit that comes from a heavy heart finding acceptance and forgiveness is immeasurable.
There is this pearl of wisdom tucked in the Scriptures: "Confess your sins to each other. . . so that you may be healed." (James 5:16) When rightly done, there is healing in giving voice to our silenced sins--whether sins done by us or to us. There is healing when the person to whom I confess responds not with the rejection I fear, but the acceptance and understanding I long for.
How long has the shame bought your own silence? How long have you lived with that cancer that erodes your hope and with its tentacles chokes the life out of your joy?
There can be healing. We all need someone who is trustworthy and compassionate to whom we can confess the cancer. The light of confession can cast out the darkness of the cancer.