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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Confessional is open

I don't know about you, but "telling on myself" was never one of my strongest attributes.  If I were to be entirely honest with you here, I'd have to admit I made up my share of untruths to actually cover up some of my misdeeds rather than have mom or dad know the truth.  Why?  We kind of "fear" being found out, don't we?  We don't want to admit to the misdeed because we just plain knew it was wrong.  I was raised Catholic (although I don't follow in that faith any longer), so I remember those times of marching into the confessional as a child, telling the local parish priest my "sins" so I could receive "absolution" and then do my "penance".  The "penance" was usually some form of a series of prayers he would instruct me to utter.  It should come as no surprise to you that I immediately went out, uttered the prayers, but had absolutely no clue in the world what I was really asking for help to rid my life of!  Why?  I had never really asked Jesus to be the one to "absolve" me of my sins - I was just going through the motions of doing what the priest instructed without any heart change occurring.  It may not seem like it, but I think we often tell each other to "do" certain things without really grasping the meaning behind them.  As long as we just "do" without the heart being behind the action, we are merely running through the motions.  Motions show activity, but the activity is fruitless.

So always tell each other the wrong things you have done. Then pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal you. Anyone who lives the way God wants can pray, and great things will happen. My brothers and sisters, if anyone wanders away from the truth and someone helps that person come back, remember this: Anyone who brings a sinner back from the wrong way will save that person from eternal death and cause many sins to be forgiven. (James 5:16, 19-20 ERV)

One thing I have learned over the years is this idea of coming out from under the "cover-ups" in my life.  It isn't necessary to "cover-up" my failures anymore because in time those things "leak through".  The cover-up doesn't last forever! This principle of "confession" which is sometimes taught in churches, but definitely taught in scripture, is not always understood for the "value" it adds to the lives of those who practice it regularly.  I honestly don't believe this to be the type of confession I experienced as a child - in the tiny room, kneeling with a veiled wall between me and the man in the black robe.  I think this concept of confession is that of openly and honestly sharing your struggles and even your short-comings with another who will "walk out" the next steps you take alongside you.  It is this idea of "coming alongside" which was missing in my previous experience as a child - I didn't have anyone to help me be accountable for my actions moving forward, or to help me make life-altering changes in the patterns of behavior I found kept me in bondage to my misdeeds.

The concept of confession as taught in the Book of James is this idea of having partners who "go along with you" through life.  They are "real" with you and you are "real" with them.  There is this idea of transparency - almost as though your life was lived with such a sincerity that you just find it hard to be dishonest (cover up) anything when around them.  I am blessed to have such a close friend, but I know a good many who don't.  I have been part of small groups who meet regularly in the homes of those in the group, enjoying the freedom to just be who we "regularly" are without having to put on "airs" or wear our "cover ups" in order to be accepted or appreciated.  It is truly a blessing to have such a relationship exchange - for learning to "live real" is the basis of learning to break free from those things in the "real world" which get you to compromise, make wrong decisions, and just plain fall flat on your face.

Living life without an accountability partner (or group) is living without safeguards.  In my line of work, we build in safeguards to keep our patients safe. Pumps and monitoring machines have alarms which will sound when the values received from the patient are too high, too low, or suggest issues have arisen.  Processes followed to the "T" are done so because a break in the process endangers the life of the one undergoing surgery, a life-saving procedure, or a test which will diagnose a disease with pinpoint accuracy.  We build in these safeguards or barriers because they protect the one we are there to serve.  Simply put - the patient counts on us "partnering" with them to keep them safe.  In real life, I want this same kind of safeguard in my "regular, everyday, run-of-the-mill, moment-by-moment" living!  I want those who "partner" with me to keep me safe in my daily walk to be there for me every step of the way.  That means I want them there even when I have something to share with them which may not be as "holy" as it should be!

Why?  It comes in recognizing God has placed them there to pray for me when I cannot pray for myself - to help me recognize my healing and how it is accomplished in my life when I cannot see the forest for the trees!  Plainly put, they are there to pray, guide, and walk alongside.  Nothing mystical about it - no religious pursuit or magic formula to follow.  It is just plain living "real" and then allowing the uniqueness of each individual's experiences to help make us stronger together.  We need each other - and I am grateful for those who have made my walk stronger along the way!  Just sayin!  And just keeping it real!