Who would ever connect confession and prayer to being able to live together with others whole and healed? Well, scripture tells us the man or woman who lives this way becomes a "power" to be reckoned with. Some of us think when people continue to cause strife in relationships this is when they become a "power" to be reckoned with, but scripture proclaims just the opposite to be true. Too many times we determine we cannot go any further because someone or something just stands in our way. Sin has a way of putting up some pretty great walls - better than the walls which have divided countries! Instead of causing communication to occur, it shuts down the pathways of communication and causes us to draw inward. We neglect communicating what we struggle with the most. Maybe this is why James tells us to make confession and prayer "our common practice" - since our common practice needs a little more than a slight overhaul!
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. (James 5:16-17 MSG)
For most of the human race, confession isn't a natural thing we just slip into with great ease. In fact, being honest about where it is we are at, or perhaps where it is we have failed, is oftentimes the hardest thing for us to do in this life. I have often said transparency in relationship will be the one thing which helps us grow deeper in the relationship, but it is the hardest thing to learn. There is more than one reason for this reticence to be open and honest with each other - things such of fear the other will no longer respect you if they knew the "real" you, or the attitude which says no one needs to know because you can handle things on your own. Regardless of the reason, you end up with walls which really make it hard to communicate and grow. If you don't believe me, researchers have found 55% of communication is our body language. How can we see another's body language when we are separated by walls? Another 38% is our tone of voice - but even the tone of voice can be changed because of our circumstances - such as being quick to answer when in a hurry, interpreted by the hearer as being flip or just not caring. Allegedly, only 7% is what we actually say!
James encourages us to "make this our common practice" - in other words, you probably aren't doing it now, but you need to learn how to do this and to do it well. Now, before anyone thinks I am going over the deep end here, let me explain a little bit about "confession". In some churches, a priest is the one who "hears" our confession. Don't get me wrong, but I don't think this is God's idea. In fact, scripture tells us to engage in this practice of confession with those who will pray for us and help us to live whole lives. The priest may pray for us, but honestly, he is not in the trenches with us day after day. We need those who are close to us to help us live out our healing! Confession is simply an acknowledgement that something is not right at the moment. It may be we are struggling to put the pieces of our lives back together after making horrific choices which have left us devastated and feeling like there is no hope for moving on. It may be we just don't "get" what another person is doing or saying, so we can neither engage in the process, nor can we stand in the way of it. Regardless of the "reason" for confession, there needs to be a safe place for the "need" for confession in our relationships.
Too many times things go unsaid in relationship because the other is afraid to "cross the line" with the other. Some of us actually think if they knew us as we really are, they probably wouldn't want to be hanging around with us! I think the opposite is true - for when someone cares enough to open their heart with me, being totally willing to get "vulnerable" with me, I am drawn to their humble heart. I find I am moved to pray for them, holding them up before God in my thoughts throughout the day, and then help them take the steps they so desperately desire to take. Maybe this is what James was trying to tell us - confession, coupled with prayer, makes us powerful in true relationship.
Three things my pastor shared this past weekend:
- Humble people don't fear confession. They are willing to look stupid in the eyes of others because no steps forward are ever easy.
- Humble people operate in the realm of truth. Truth builds trust and trust will help us to walk where we have been afraid to walk before.
- Humble people aren't afraid to seek grace. Grace-filled people have probably already needed a whole lot of grace already! So, giving it away is easy!
Not sure where you stand today, but I know the walls won't help you communicate any better! Just sayin!
The Elephant in the Room - Part I