This weekend, I visited an old friend, whose dad was my pastor during most of my childhood. I hadn't heard him preach in many years, so I visited his church this morning and while there, a very cool little story was shared by a member of that fellowship. This woman came forward to share about her many years of running from God and living in rebellion and ultimately how God had drawn her back into fellowship with him, and an event involving her son gave her the final push to come forward. And now I am going to retell her retelling of that event to you.
"A couple weeks ago, several of us from church were over at one friend's house, and the adults were chatting while the kids played in the pool. And as we were sitting there in coversation, my son Andrew, who is four, came up towards the adults and as he stood there, he just dropped his trunks. Right there in front of us all. I look over at the pastor, and he's averting his eyes, trying not to stare at it, and I'm embarassed, and I say to my son, "Andrew, you can't just drop your pants in front of other people like that." My son didn't hesitate, "But it's okay, mom, they're our church family." And I realized that if my son is so comfortable with you all, I have no excuse for not sharing my struggles with you."
Confession. It's a practice that we can easily pass over in the Church, as we spend so much of our time listening to sermons or socializing or faking a "life's peachy" attitude. I believe that we have so easily become tainted by the world that we have so many churches full of Janus-faced people, who are afraid to show their wounds and fears and outright willful sins that pull us down and out of fellowship with Christ. As the Church, we are called to the openly confess to one another the stains in our lives. James says to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other." Open confession was something that I first experienced when I became a part of Illini Life, and it has become vital for growing in Christ and in fighting against my pride. But the temptation to float along, so as to not damper another's opinion of you is certainly real.
This practice is a huge hurdle for many (certainly some are more prone to being transparent than others), but isn't it liberating? Doesn't it help prevent others from placing us on a pedestal, because they see us as one who is also struggling to be obedient to Christ day to day? And most of all, doesn't it fill us with humility as we are forced to face ourselves and our pride in the mirror of another's forgiveness and grace?
How can we foster environments and communities where confession is encouraged and received with grace?