Confessions for a New Year
How about we talk confessions in this fine month of February? (It’s tough I know, but try and hold back your enthusiasm.)
So, confessions begin in our heart before they ever make their way to our voice. Confessions are motivated by a sense of regret or an even deeper feeling of remorse about things done to hurt others, ourselves, or our God (AKA, sins). Confessions are a verbal acceptance of the sins we’re guilty of and, whether spoken to someone or to God in prayer, are intended to provide us with a freedom from any chains of guilt associated with or resulting from those sins, while also offering us a clean slate to begin fresh. Exactly the kind of fresh start we’re all seeking at the beginning of any new year, really. And, confessions can be both powerful and neutralizing, shocking us with surprising force (especially if we aren’t prepared to hear them from another) and shouting loud the daily need we all have for Jesus, while also helping us see each other in the same all-knowing light Jesus sees us all in, since each and every one of us also sins.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.1 John 1:8
But that’s where the rub is, right? The fact that we all sin, but don’t really want to face the sins we commit, since we’re told from early on to hide any brokenness from the world. And, quite honestly, why wouldn’t we want to hide them? I mean, sins embarrass us. Shame us. Show others our weaknesses. Make us feel inadequate or less than. They prove that we’re actually not perfect, in need of the very help we’re told we shouldn’t, and often live to deny we’d ever need. So, instead, we cover sin up with pride, boasting, knowledge, blame, manipulation, anger, and deflection. Or, maybe through a little white-washing and reasoning. Or, simply a flat-out ignorance of its existence all together.
But, guess what? We can’t do this forever. Eventually we all get caught. Or, caught up in and bound tight. Or, maybe called out. Or, the sins we do manage to bury, will end up burying us in a type of regret or remorse that won’t lead to any real confessions, but instead to a never-ending attempt to re-frame, re-do, or completely re-write our wrong(s) altogether.
But, what if we could choose a different option?
This way to the Confessional, please...
Lifestyle of Confession
What if we could give all that up to live in the complete freedom of owning our mess – or, *gasp* even embracing it – because it leads us to something bigger? Someone bigger? What if we lived a lifestyle of total, no excuses and no cover-ups, confession? A lifestyle that consistently seeks a space at the foot of The Cross… a meet-up at the feet of The Savior?? A lifestyle where asking Our Father to show us our sin regularly, then agreeing with Him about it and requesting forgiveness for it, then moving on with Him from it, is simply part of our everyday way? Like brushing our teeth. Or, bathing. Or, rolling our eyes. (Or, maybe that’s just me?!)
And this lifestyle… well, I’m now convinced, it’s really the only way we should ever wish to live, because it’s so real. And, refreshing. And, free! And, because Jesus has shown me He’s so much bigger than even the sum of all my sins and can be trusted to forgive me and forget them, plus erase any and all shame surrounding them.
Even if others know about them. Even if you know about them. Because…
The Bondage of Unconfessed Sin Leads to a Good-for-Nothing Cover Up
We believe lies when we believe we need to hide or cover up our broken from Jesus or each other.redeemedruth.com
Y’all, here’s the real deal. There’s a real life to be really lived in this really messed up world of ours. Eye roll inducing as it (or, that last sentence!) may be. In fact, it’s the life Jesus offers us in exchange for His very life. And, it’s one that can actually be lived in spite of us living imperfectly. It’s a life that accepts our flaws, faults, and mess. It’s a life lived free from the shame, lies, and pretense, or all the pressures of must-do’s, must-try’s, must-be’s, and must-haves in order to feel whole, complete, or accepted by this world of ours. It’s a life that doesn’t need to work harder, be better, achieve more, or serve all the more in order to cover up our sinfulness and broken places. And, it’s a lifestyle perfectly suited for all the perfectionists among us *she raises her hand* because it’s one that shouts loud, and proudly,
“The only perfect person is Jesus. Period.”
See, in a lifestyle of confession, we confess our mess freely, receive immediate forgiveness from the Only One Who truly gives it, and then live boldly from His clean slate of forgiveness – daily – without any need to fake it or hide behind prettied up versions of ourselves or, worse, break hard our backs and savings accounts and relationships and you-name-it, attempting to convince each other those messy parts don’t exist in the first place.
What’s more, this lifestyle leads to a life that’s all about living loved in a real relationship with the only One (hint: Jesus) Who can lead us to live out the real truth of who we were really meant to be from the very beginning, which means we no longer need to…
Cover over who we actually still are;
Live in bondage to what others say is the best way;
Nor (even!) live in bondage to what we’ve always believed to be the best way.
Because, living a lifestyle of daily confession will always lead us first to Jesus, Who has the perfect life already marked out for each of us personally. And, we’ll never need to guess or wonder or look to see what others are doing to achieve their own ideas of “perfect”. We won’t need the bondage of a general population echo chamber that shouts loud, “Try this.” “Do that.” “Read this.” “Go there.” “Eat this, not that!” “This will change your life. Guaranteed!”
Because, often times, all this “life advice” (as genuine as it may be) is only someone else’s cover up for their own messy, unconfessed broken bits… or, simply something designed to cover over all the ways we’ve all been told and (sadly) believe we’re lacking and must change. But after all these years, hasn’t following the voices of the latest and greatest versions of being, begun to feel like a real burden? Like a chasing of the wind? Or, as if you’ve been tossed back and forth by waves that keep breaking over stronger and faster? It certainly has for me.
Meanwhile, Jesus keeps whispering His truth…”Your cover-up is good-for-nothing, so let me be your cover.”
See, we continue to believe lies when we believe we need to hide or cover up any of our broken from Jesus or each other. Because, think about it, we obviously can’t hide anything from God and what good has ever come from a cover up anyway? So, today, I’m officially out of hiding and set on living free in this lifestyle. I’m coming to you bare-souled, confessing that I must be sold out to Jesus Christ instead of the chorus of Ought-to and Should-be, Hide Yourself and Your Mess, Cover-ups!
Because, the honest truth is, I no longer want to do what others suggest just because prevailing wisdom thinks it best. And yet, I confess that I’m still often tempted to fall toward those voices in the chorus. But, what I really want to fall toward is the voice of Jesus, because I know He’s the only One that really knows it all.
Though, to be fair, sometimes someone else’s suggestions and Jesus’ voice might actually be telling me the same thing. Thing is, I’ll never know for sure until I take all I hear to Him first in prayer (or, simply a conversation, for those who may wonder. A conversation which, very often, begins the confession we’re discussing here).
In fact, I confess I know absolutely nothing until I do this very thing. And, honestly, I’ve learned, have, and even write – nothing at all – apart from doing that very thing regularly. Nor will I ever again achieve, gain, or receive one single thing apart from Jesus and His grace in my life. And, even the mere fact I know this at all also happens to be from Him! Simply because, to Him and from Him all things exist. And, nothing exists that has not made through Him and all gifts are handed down from Him.
Confessing Our Sins and Community
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.James 5:16
Now, Y’all… I want to be healed. You, too, I bet. In fact, I’ve thought long about this and even wrote a three part post you can find here on the very subject. And, I want this (mostly) more than I care how much I embarrass myself in this life. And, while I’m not saying we should all start shouting from the rooftops our worst offenses, I do believe deeply in the healing that honest, regular confession could potentially foster in community. Because, if we’re all broken in our own ways, hiding them from each other only leads to more shame and more hiding. The opposite of what we’re going for, right?
So, in the spirit of “practicing what ya preach”, I feel led to confess some things here. But, to be completely transparent, I don’t want to! In all honesty, I started writing this whole post on January 3rd, if that tells you anything about how much I don’t want to! But, you can’t run from God forever (just ask Jonah), so here goes…
I confess that: I’m often judgmental. I’m very self-focused. Gentleness is rare for me. I seek comfort more than I seek God. I don’t usually speak the truth in love. I find it nearly impossible to love some people. I often withhold things I know people want. I want everyone to like me. I rarely like me. I tend toward laziness and disinterest and cynicism, not joy. I do not trust you. I will hurt you. Do not expect anything from me because you’ll be disappointed. I’m disappointed you don’t give me what I need. I live on an island. I mock, roll my eyes, laugh at, and call names. I want you to be everything I’m not. I don’t need you, so don’t need me too much or I’ll want to run. I live for myself. I cuss and say highly inappropriate things and often drink too much wine and eat too much unhealthy food (although I’m not sure that last one’s a sin, per se, I was just on a roll). I do not always see you as made in God’s image. I often want to remake you in my own image. I often wish you were different. I often see you as in my way or annoying to me. I care more about how you feel about me than how I make you feel when you’re around me. I talk about myself way too much. I’m undisciplined and insecure and sometimes too outspoken. God is not usually enough for me. I often desire His blessings more than I desire Him. I can say very cruel things to my family and sometimes even my friends. And, don’t get me started on other drivers…
And, that’s just off the top of my head. And, I really do wish I could snap my fingers and stop doing all those things. But, I also feel free to confess this to you because I know Jesus is bigger than that heaping mess of sin! And, He’s also way better (clearly) than anything I could ever offer you on my own! The Best Ever! (I mean, could I really ever share these things if I didn’t believe He was?!)
Because, I believe Him when He says He’s remaking me in His image, even as I look so far apart from anything resembling Him. And, I want you to know the real me. The really messy, broken, and sinful me. Especially at the start of another new year. Most especially because you sometimes allow me an ear. Not so you can love me despite it. (Lord help me! May that never be!) No. It’s so we can be real with each other. And, so you can feel just as free to see and confess your own messy ways and know you also have a message and a Life Giver named Jesus and that He is loving you and remaking you despite any mess you have, too. And, it’s so we can both live mask free, yet massively loved, in an imperfectly, perfect community of God’s own making.
Now (and please hear this part), I truly do want nothing more than to be a sinless, lavishly loving, soul-edifying, super saint who pours her life out as an offering to you and to others. But, I’m nowhere near that. And, I’ll likely never be anywhere close to it anytime soon. And while I believe God, through the Holy Spirit, will continue to move in my life to help me overcome some of these issues, I believe I’ll still continue in many of these – and even other, yet to be discovered – sinful patterns as my life on Earth goes on.
How? Great question.
Confession – a Key to Love’s Cover
So, while most of us know confession is a requirement at our initial conversion (message me if you would like more info on this part), the reason it must never stop there is because we are not instantly “without sin” in our flesh (actions and heart). And, although it’s true that we’re instantly forgiven of all sins and then justified, plus forever “in Christ“, we are still gonna blow it on earth. Very often in some cases. *as she raises both hands high* So, my sin is there, and – based on my history – isn’t going away anytime soon.
Now, if I choose a cover up, I’m basically saying that I don’t need Jesus for life in my every day, and that I only really needed Him for a place in His Eternity. But, as I’ve pointed out, we’re looking for the real life created just for us personally here on earth and, in my experience, I’ve found confession to be an important key to unlocking that really free, really good life we’re meant to live here. The life that rejects good-for-nothing cover-ups because it’s a life covered over By Love. By Jesus.
Now… if you’re anything like the me I struggle not to be, you can sometimes get all alone and think, “Gee whiz, Lord. Why do I keep screwing up like this?! Why can’t I get it together? Aren’t I a new creation now? Robed in righteousness and equal parts strength and dignity?? Overflowing with living water and loaded with fruits of the Holy Spirit for the parched and hungry around me?? Gifted with faith, hope, and the greatest of both, love, for all I’m graced to know?!?”
And, you might cry buckets and hate hard on your awful self. And feel guilt and shame and wonder if you’ll ever grow up into love or always be this stinkin’ messed up. And, swear you’ll do better. Until you do something worse later that same day. And, you really want to bury your head then, and all the guilt starts again. And, maybe even remains that way for years. Maybe even fifteen, or so, years of your walk with Jesus. *as she raises both hands, yet again*
Because you think you should. be. perfect. By goodness, by now! Because this world tells you to be perfect. And, the church shouts it, too. And, you feel like a failure. And, insist there must be some formula. Which leads you to desire and search out a cover up among the voices in the echo chamber, because this world is all about those formulas and steps and finding the answers, after all. Even the Church sometimes. And, they’re right anyway, because the Bible does tell us to be holy. So you try to employ the formulas. But, you fail. Yet, again.
And, oddly enough, this whole spin cycle keeps you from going to God in confession and, instead, has you donning another cover-up (in just the right figure-flattering shade and size, too, thank you very much!)
And, right here is where we simply blow it and miss the point of whole dang thing! The open, real, honest relationship with Jesus! The continuing conversation, that should lead to the confession, that holds a key to unlocking our shame-free, lifestyle that’s sourced by and draped in Love’s relational covering. Because, it’s this confession that admits bravely, and over and over and out loud all over again, as often as it takes(!)…
“Father, I just can’t seem to stop doing [fill in the blank]. I want to, but I keep failing. And yet, Dear Jesus, I know YOU never failed! And because YOU didn’t, I am now free to come to You in a relationship of continual conversation and in full confession, asking for Your covering and then gratefully – and fully – accepting the clean slate You promise to provide every. single. time.”
And, confession continues on in a daily conversation with Love to say, “Oh, Lord. I really blew it again. But you knew I would and yet still came through for me on the cross. And you still root for me and stay committed to changing me, by Your Spirit, and You remain faithful to complete what You began on that cross! So, keep me coming to you in conversation and confession, so our relationship grows in Your grace and goodness and covering, and so I no longer feel the need to cover over anything because of my shame and can instead choose to do the good works You have for me to do in spite of my very own messed up self.”
It Really Is a True Love Cover-Up
See, Y’all, the truth is… real Love is all that we’re really after in all the ways we seek to cover up. All the chasing and seeking and performing and out-running that seems to be so common in this world, is usually only a cover for the fact we feel so guilty and unaccepted for who we actually are deep down. And so, really the best news ever for us, especially in this month of love when resolutions usually begin slipping away from us faster than the days, is that changing us – deep down – IS the very goal of God in our all our years walking this earth with Him. A term ordinarily referred to as sanctification.
Because Jesus doesn’t just love the messy of who we are, as if staring at us through eyes of a doting Momma, bragging to His Father, “Awe… isn’t she the most adorable thing?! I know she’s a bit rough around the edges, but she doesn’t really mean it. She’s had a tough life. We should give her a pass and let her just keep doing her thing, her way. “
You may be grateful (especially if you’re my friend!) to know He’s not doing this with me, though maybe a little less so, that He’s not doing this with you either.
The fact is, Jesus sees the mess of who we all are – in full and living color – and He mourns it. Deeply. But, then He actually moves towards it and speaks to us about it… then He takes a beating and spills His own blood for it, and eventually gives His very own life to cover up completely for it.
But, there’s even more! By His Holy Spirit, He also commits to being the One to actually change it. Change us (sanctification, again), so that we may live, full and free, to be exactly what He needs us to be, in order to bring Him the most glory!
Amazing Grace, indeed!
So, let’s stop the madness of the cover up and cease all the hide and seek. We’re in His capable hands and time frame, after all. While we’re at it, let’s stop all the methods of self-improvement, self-help, self-discipline, self-esteem, or even (as helpful as they can be) twelve steps to the freedom only this world can provide. Because these will never do – long term – what Jesus can do when we long for more of Him in the deeper relationship He died to secure for us.
And, let’s seek to live the lifestyle that sees and confesses our mess regularly. Then mourns it, while actually moving closer to Jesus to be held by His scarred arms of love in it. Then, let’s die to ourselves upon Him, instead of our self-imposed crosses, because He’s the only strength we’ll ever need. And finally, let’s commit ourselves totally to His cover up and complete sanctification.
Confession, The Great Exchange
Because, this whole thing is really just about a basic transaction. An exchange of love. And every confession we make, begins this amazingly gracious exchange of His beauty for our burned up ashes. His righteous life for our raggedy, remorse-filled living. His ongoing forgiveness for our never-ending sins. His light yoke for our heavy burdens. His complete covering for our exposed nakedness. His rejected, bruised, and bound-up death for our shame-free, fully accepted, and complete life.
His perfection for our messy reflection.
Those who look to Him [The Lord] are radiant: their faces are never covered with shame.Psalm 34:5
So, look to The Lord for this great exchange. Converse with Him. Confess to Him. Remain in relationship to Him. And then (Please, please, please, if you do nothing else!), hear Him as He tells you,
“I see you and I forgive you. Completely. I see your mess. Your sin. Before you even see it and act upon it yourself. And, I see why you make those messes in your life. Why you break down and break others. I see that you don’t love me enough or believe me enough and therefore don’t trust me enough, so need to control and fear and manipulate and hide behind that mask of lies or pretend you’re something you’re not just feel better and in control. I see every bit of it. So, confess it to me. Let’s face the mess together. Be honest so you can be real and healed. This is why I came. To seek and save the lost. I don’t simply want you to be a better version of yourself, all by yourself. I didn’t die for you so you could live exhausted, trying to find the best version of yourself in your own effort. And, while I do see you and love you just as you are, I love you way too much to ever leave you that way. I want to love you a better way. I want you to be who I have planned for you to be, because that’s who you’re meant to be. And I want you to look like me. And I promise you will look all the more like me, as you draw more and more near to me. So let’s walk out this walk I’ve planned for you here on earth – together – with the goal of less and less mess, YES, yet also with more and more grace to stand tall and free in spite of it all, because I’m the Lord of all.”
Love’s Cover Is Never About Us
So, let me end (finally!) with some great news. Perfection on earth must never be our goal. Jesus must be! And He was perfect. And He still Is and still is to come throughout eternity. And, Y’all, the closer we get to Him, the more we will resemble Him. And, I promise, He’ll always be bigger than our mess and will still always get glory through our mess, if we’ll simply seek to point to His mercy and grace and greatness, rather than anything we muster up on our own.
Because, it’s just not about us. It never has been. And confessing that changes everything!
And since it isn’t about us, and all begins with Jesus anyway, may this beginning(ish) of 2020 be the year we each give Him more than our resolutions. More than we give to anything else at all! Because, if you give Him your most, I promise you will get more of Him, and this will never, ever leave you in need of a cover up, again!
Side Note: As I began to write this on the third day of January, surrounded by an overwhelming mess of Christmas past and roughly twenty still empty Christmas totes awaiting their contents, I heard a voice. It was a mixture of my own and the enemy of my soul and sounded like this: “You are lazy. Why are you even writing this? No one reads it anyway. Your writing in general is absolutely pointless. You’re just avoiding work and procrastinating on what needs to be done. This is a total waste of time!” And I believed the voice and I wanted to obey it, because I’ve done just that for so long. And I did obey it, oh, for about 40, or so, days now…
But, with each passing day, I kept hearing just enough of Another Voice that said, “Bondage to lies is a real thing, Ruth. Remember though, I came to free you from that and draw you to me. And, I’m asking you to write, right now. To begin this year at the beginning of our relationship. Begin in confession. To offer others an alternative to starting out a new year in the middle of the bondage of an old, covered-up mess. To offer Jesus, who was in the very beginning and is (now) your mediator and the perfector of all messes, to someone else that may need the freedom He gives! Encourage someone else with your confession and His perfection.”
And, I’m grateful (mostly) I chose to listen to that Voice. And, while this post is still too long and not anything like I’d like it to be, nor close to coherent enough (perfection, again!) or what you likely wanted to hear, nor (and this, most of all!) anything I ever wanted to share, the heart of it must be heard, so I had no choice but to finally share it! Confession requires a humbling and the obedience He’s really after and I know God always honors what He calls us to.
Last but not least, it’s a bit late, but cheers to YOU in this new year! I pray your 2020 has started out a bit smoother than mine, but most of all, that you’d choose Love’s Cover over all others for the remainder of all our years! Thanks for reading and much love to you ❤