My mom and I were talking last Friday (pre-Mother’s Day) and she was sharing with me that she had two speaking engagements for two different churches for Mother-Daughter banquets. She said, “The other church (not the one she attends which I grew up in) is easy. I’ll just recycle the ‘thing’ I did last year for our church. But I guess I need to get started on the one for our church.” I asked if she at least had an idea since she only had 48 hours to prepare.
“Oh yeah! ‘The Best Advice Mother Ever Gave Me’ and I polled my class (third grade) to get their input. Ready?” She shared a few of their thoughts but my favorite two were: Don’t belly surf down the stairs. And always wear your shoes in the chicken coop and flush the toilet. I was confused by that last one for a minute until she reminded me that third graders are prone to run on sentences. She started to ask me what the best advice she ever gave me was and I cut her off.
Blow it – don’t stow it!
She was less than thrilled. Any time my sister or I had a cold and we started sniffing, she would say “Blow it-don’t stow it!” See, Mom didn’t want us to keep all that junk in our heads because we would get chest colds or sinus infections and make the whole thing worse. So I was telling my mother the best advice she ever gave was about snot?!
But I quickly explained that it applies to more than snot. I am a bottler. I keep things in that should probably be said because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or don’t want to stress people out. It’s better if I just hold it in and deal with it myself than disrupt someone else’s life. At least that’s my thinking. In reality there are some things that need to be said out loud because to hold them in just creates a bigger problem – resentment, anger, stress and in general, broken relationships.
Fast forward two days with me. I was preparing for a discussion on spiritual disciplines and I came across the discipline of confession. Sure, sure. I messed up God. Will you forgive me? Good? Good. But I went a little deeper. Why do we need it? How should we go about confession? This was going to get sticky.
I was trudging through Richard Foster’s Celebration of Disciplines book trying to find all these answers and I realized something I never really got before. God WANTS to forgive us. Think about that. Would the cross have ever happened if God didn’t want to reconcile us to Him? Back up even further. Would there have ever been a need for the priests and the Tabernacle if God didn’t want to be with us?
1 John 1:9 is a favorite verse for people who want to lean into the love of God.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
He’s waiting for us. He wants to forgive us but He’s waiting for us to come to Him with our sins. I feel like sometimes humans take all the credit for desiring a relationship with God – we tend to forget that He desired us first.
But how do we confess? It’s easy to admit that we sinned. Ok, maybe easy is the wrong word. We can say we did the wrong thing when we are talking to God. When we are talking to other people, it becomes a little harder. But how honest are we with ourselves? Gosh, God. I’m sorry I let my language get away from me. I’m sorry I lost my temper. Those aren’t hard things to spit out because they are blatant actions against the will of God.
When was the last time you sat down and asked God to reveal to you the “stuff” in your life that doesn’t please Him? I was washing dishes a few days ago and I did this. I didn’t like it. It started at the surface but then God showed me the why behind the actions. Pride. Selfishness. Anger. Lack of trust.
Psalm 139 as a whole is a Psalm that rocks my world but the verses that drive it home to me are the very last two (v. 23 & 24).
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me. And lead me in the everlasting way.
Which brings us to the last element of confession – the changing. When God brought those sinful elements to my mind, it was very easy to say I’m sorry and go about my day. It was easy but not enough. Now I have to work daily with the Spirit to eradicate those issues from my life. I have to submit my pride every day. It’s not about me; it’s about others seeing God through me. It’s not ok to hold that wrong against someone and bad mouth them so that everyone is angry with them. I need to make that right.
Let’s go back to “blow it.” When I am done blowing my nose, I throw the tissue away and wash my hands, right? I don’t hang on to the tissue like some soggy delightful treasure! (You’re welcome for that imagery!) I put it as far away from me as I can AND I wash away the germs that started the whole mess. Confession should be the same thing. I get it all out before God and I surrender it to the cross. Then I have to make a change to be sure that I don’t fall into that trap again. Will I get it every time? No. But God WANTS to forgive me!
Name one Biblical account when an individual requested forgiveness and was denied. Take Nineveh for pity’s sake! They were on the cusp of total annihilation and even when Jonah stalled for a week and then preached a half-hearted message, they confessed, repented, fasted and changed and were spared. Moses begged for the children of Israel on more than one occasion and God spared them.
Do not allow unconfessed sin to infect your relationship with the Father who wants to forgive you. Blow it – don’t stow it.