His eyes were misty, his hair slightly damp from the sweat-fear. His world was spinning; his spirit flailing; he was seeking a place of solidity to which he could anchor his heart. He had done some things he regretted. Actually, he had done many things. More than the average person could stomach. Shame burned his throat and rasped his voice. Eyes down and words quiet, he confessed his stuff. He was determined to tell the truth. Why? All forgiveness and healing come through the conduit of truth.
He shook at times, his shoulders giving way to the pain spreading through his torso as confession bled from his soul and spewed from his mind. Fear tipped his head toward this feet, for his assumption of judgment promised rejection and even hatred. He knew, for he said so repeatedly, that his confession would infuriate me. He truly believed that his past sins would control my future opinion.
I listened, waiting for that moment when his sin would tip me over the ledge of acceptance and drop me into the valley of denunciation. Over my years, I have heard the most horrible admissions, yet I have never been pushed off that cliff. But hey, maybe there would be something in this case that would finally force me over. When he finished, I was, once again, left standing squarely upon the cliff of commonality.
All of us. Every single one of us, has a history we wish we did not have.
No one is exempt from this vicious thing we call sin. We have each our own list of ugly thoughts and actions, some of which we fear admitting. There are those things we have done that we dare not share, for if we did, opinions of us would be . . . well, what they ought to be outside of God’s changing power.
Sin is an ugly thing. It is hurtful and wicked and it causes nothing but death wherever it lives. It crushes hearts and crushes hopes and crushes feelings. It lies and deceives and leaves others in the dark as to real motives. It is egotistical and self-serving. It seeks to take and not give. It grinds up what is good and uses it as a seasoning to flavor up its actions, so that it looks better than it is. It destroys lives and defends what is vile. It stinks with the smell of rancid tar and it sticks to those it infects and affects until it kills completely.
Sin does not have an upside.
As a result, people have begun to deny its existence, or to minimize and blame, or to do what my sweet friend had done for years. We hide it. Now, I can theologize out of denying sin, I can psychologize out of minimizing or blaming others for sin, but how, oh how, do we help people come out of hiding?
Hiding is an age-old self-protecting coping mechanism for what we have done wrong. Adam and Eve set the original example. God, in his greatness, did not leave them in hiding, but called them out and asked them to confess. I think sometimes of how scared they must have been. Neither had an ounce of ability to deny that they had sinned, for the Sin Definer was also the one calling them out. They had no ability to blame, though Adam tried blaming Eve—which God ignored. Take that to heart the next time you want to put responsibility for your actions on someone else’s influence. That tactic was so wrong God did not even take time to acknowledge it.
Hiding never works. Instead of solving our sin problem it fertilizes it. Hiding requires we live under constant pressure. Secrets are not stagnant. They tend to swell and grow and split our peace and our minds. They isolate us and when we get isolated we end up sinning again and again and again…for hidden sin can grow; and it sprouts new and increasingly ugly things. In time, what was once one secret box of sin hidden under the bed grows a room full of shame.
My heart broke for my Dear One. His stuff was not easy stuff. It was icky and ugly and painful to him and others. It was also nothing new. He had lived with his stuff needlessly. I was not horrified or even impressed with his badness. I had done much of what he had done. Some of it twice. I took his hands and told him he was still lovable and he was forgivable. Though his sins were not about me, I told him he was forgiven. Why? Because the words ‘I forgive you’ are a powerful healer. If Jesus had been with us, it is what he would have said. Since Jesus lives in me and I in him, and since Jesus is no longer here in body, I spoke the words as his representative.
My Dear One cried for a while. I let him. Sometimes tears are old and have been bottled up. When he pulled the cork, they sort of exploded in him. When he was done, we bowed our hearts before the Lord who already knew what he had done. In our minds, we knelt at the cross on which Jesus corrected every wrong. My Dear One laid his sins there and let them go.
With his courage to confess, his secrets lost their power. He walked away from that cross a different man. I smile even as I close my eyes and see him again. In giving up hiding his secrets, he also gave up the guilt. He smiles more now. I like that.
My community works hard at giving people no reason to hide. We believe in authenticity, and that means we believe in admitting. We also believe in accepting. We are pretty hard to shock, so I have yet to see a confession that surprised or repulsed us. We have either been there, done that or know who has. We dare not despise someone for their sin. Why? Jesus made it clear that what we give will be received back. With that in mind, If I hate others for their sins. . .
We will embrace my Dear One. That soul will know acceptance in spite of his past. He will see that his past does not predict his future and he will be given room to grow and learn how to live out the forgiveness. But mostly he will be loved in his mess.
Why? Because that is how we roll. We love. Its who we are.