If you have ever been loaded up with so much guilt because you didn't do something you were supposed to do, or you did something totally wrong, you probably know what it is to feel weighted down, filled with conflict, and just totally down on yourself. This load of guilt will do more to keep us "anchored" to our past than anything else. Yet, the moment you share your guilt by making an acknowledgement of your misguided actions or overlooked intentions, you find something amazing happening - the load seems to lift. At least this is the case when your confession of guilt is made to the right person - God himself. When we attempt to simply confess our sins to another, we may find we don't get quite the same reception as we do with God - for we humans have a lot to learn about "wiping the slate clean" when another asks for their "misses" to be no longer counted against them! Scripture supports us sharing the burden of our sin with another and asking for forgiveness - not because we need to confess to a human being, but because we see that brother or sister come alongside to support us in prayer. James tells us: "If you have sinned, you should tell each other what you have done. Then you can pray for one another and be healed. The prayer of an innocent person is powerful, and it can help a lot." The biggest step we take is any step toward forgiveness - maybe this is why this step is the hardest for some of us to take!
Our God, you bless everyone whose sins you forgive and wipe away. You bless them by saying, “You told me your sins, without trying to hide them, and now I forgive you.” You said to me, “I will point out the road that you should follow. I will be your teacher and watch over you. Don’t be stupid like horses and mules that must be led with ropes to make them obey.” All kinds of troubles will strike the wicked, but your kindness shields those who trust you, Lord. And so your good people should celebrate and shout. (Psalm 32:1-2; 8-11 CEV)
Forgiveness begins by asking. As we seek forgiveness, we find we are not always met with the same level enthusiasm we might have thought we'd received from the other person, though. Why? They are human - so if they haven't worked things through themselves, they might not be in the place of even wanting to forgive us! They have their own load they are dealing with and until they deal with it, they cannot let go of the hurt they feel toward us. Maybe this is why James encouraged us to prayer for one another - for in lifting each other up, we find the bonds which bind us to our hurt beginning to loosen and the bonds which will ties us together tighten.
God is our starting point whenever we need to seek forgiveness. We bring our load to him first, then we go to another in the spirit of repentance to seek their forgiveness for any wrong-doing on our part. Even when we find we don't recognize any wrong-doing on OUR part, if someone else has been "slighted" by our actions (or lack of action), we still need to go to the other person. A clean slate with God gets us to the place we can ask another to help us wipe the slate clean in relationship with them, as well. When we don't try to hide behind our excuses for our failures, we find we are more apt to confess them to the one we have offended. Hiding only causes the rift to grow deeper.
There is something else which happens when we make confession of our sins - this idea of having a new path laid out before us. When this occurs in relationship with another, we find we begin to travel, not so much back to where we were before the rift occurred, but to a new destination hand-in-hand. We go places we haven't been before in the relationship - usually deeper and more committed to each other. Maybe this is also why God wants us to come to him with our sins - so we can confess them, have the slate wiped clean, and then travel to new places with him we haven't been before - deeper, more committed, and with a greater degree of integrity in the relationship.
The warning given to us is to be less stubborn and more teachable. Mules and horses need a lot of encouragement to go where they should go. After all, this is the purpose of the bit in their mouth! Until they break their desire to constantly go their own direction, they need the bit! When one rides a mule or horse, the rider is usually in control - but it can be a pretty uncomfortable ride until the horse or mule trusts the rider. When the relationship is finally cemented and they begin to trust each other, it is a wonderful thing. When we are faithful to confess our sins to God, he removes the guilt we bear. When we begin to trust him to lead us on the path we should go without always pulling against him, it is a beautiful thing. Just sayin!