Bella’s mother said that Bella was never able to hide for long – she always had to confess what she had done wrong. That deep desire to be real and free from shame continued throughout her life. The trouble was when Bella would sense that shame creeping up on her and think that something must be wrong and she would hunt for it. She didn’t experience the reality that Jesus had already taken all the shame away. Shame that didn’t just say she had done something wrong but that she was wrong…she was flawed at the core.
If a person doesn’t understand that this is what they are actually wrestling with – this shame and deep sense of wrong, confession can either be a confession of being wrong at the core (which is damaging) and maybe even an “unnecessary” confession in an attempt to have a reprieve from the shame that hovers over the life.
Her freedom came in the most unusual way. She welcomed the emotion of shame one day. She gave it space and asked it to tell her what it wanted to say. And shame exposed the lie that she had been believing for a very long time without realizing it. She invited Jesus to speak and His words came and filled her with wonder. He said, “There is nothing wrong with you, Bella.” Since that day, she lived into this incredible truth. Shame didn’t hover over her life anymore. Oh, sometimes she could sense it needed space and when she gave the space, shame’s grip loosened and she was free again.
Incredibly, self-examination and confession became a loving and life-giving experience with Jesus. Sometimes during the day, the Spirit would point something out and she would simply agree and ask for the grace to turn. Most nights she did an Examen, where she and Jesus looked back over the day to see where she was aware of His presence and the places where she had sinned or gotten trapped in false self ways. Confession took on other forms too – confessing the truth about Jesus, confessing what she believed, confessing her desires for God. Self-examination wasn’t just for when and how she sinned but also for where she walked with God in His love.
From the Book:
Confession might be good for the soul, but it can be very hard to do. We are invested in looking like good moral people. After all, appearing good is one way of dealing with the notion that something is wrong with us. We can put a great deal of energy into maintaining the image that we are good moral people. But this very appearance of goodness can be a way we defend ourselves against our sin. For when we can’t see our sin, we have nothing to confess.
The truth is that we all sin. Sin is anything that breaks relationships. Jesus is totally realistic about broken relationships. He experienced them. He was put to death by them. Yet Jesus taught that the damage done through sin was not the last word on life. Sin could be confessed. Sin could be forgiven. And sinful people could be set free.
A few reflection questions from the book:
1. Do you tend to pray along the lines of “Forgive my sins, dear Lord” rather than naming your specific sin (s)? How might being specific help with your self-awareness?
2. When have you tasted the joy of a good confession?
3. What is it like for you to confess your sins before a friend or confessor?
4. Which of your sins hurts those closest to you?
A few Spiritual Exercises to Choose from:
1. Set aside some time for confession and self-examination. In the presence of God ask for light to pierce your defenses. Then ask yourself, who have injured recently through thoughtlessness, neglect, anger and so on? As the Holy Spirit brings people to mind, confess your feelings about these people to God. Ask God to forgive you and if need be, to give you grace to forgive them. Be open to put the relationship back on track.
2. Ask some of your family and close friends to help you see your blind spots. Ask questions, what do I do that hurts you? How could I better love you? What is it like to be with me? Do I show interest in others or talk mostly about myself? Let their answers guide you in a time of confession.
3. Imagine the kind of person you would like to become in your old age. Then look at your life and assess whether or not the way you live now is preparing you to become this person. Confess where you need to change.
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi-Unsplash