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photo by Dave Bonta

photo by Dave Bonta

I was working in the yard with my kids the other day.  I wanted to move some rocks from one part of the yard to form a border around a flower bed under a tree in another part of the yard.  A couple of my boys were up to the challenge.

These rocks had been in their previous location for years.  Do you know what was under them when we started digging them out?  You guessed it – bugs.

Now, I’m a lot older than my kids and I knew to expect all those creepy crawlies.  But my younger boys did not.  They jumped back in surprise and disgust.  Then they wanted to put the rocks back – as if it would make the bugs cease to exist.  The trouble is the bugs were there before we saw them.  They would still be there even if we hid them again.

I think we sometimes view sin like my boys viewed those bugs.  We can walk around like it doesn’t exist until it’s exposed to the light.  And we don’t want to expose it to light because it’s gross to see.

Confessing sin often feels like I am turning over rocks and discovering something new and yucky.  I expect others to jump back in surprise and disgust.

Do you know the Latin meaning of “confess” is simply “acknowledge”?

When I think about it that way, it makes a big difference in my understanding of confessing sin.

If confession is just agreeing with what is already true – acknowledging it as true – it changes my perspective.

I grew up thinking of confession as an admission of guilt, a reluctant statement of something which brought shame or embarrassment.  I believed (wrongly) it was like those rocks in my yard.  This is not far from the current definition of confession in the dictionary.  Since dictionaries reflect the current, common usage of words, I guess I’m not the only one who views confession this way.

When I see confession as something that exposes shame and risks rejection, confessing sin is hard.  I don’t really like to do things that expose me and bring shame.  I don’t like to bring into the light the secret things no one knows – whoever hears it might be shocked, disgusted, dismayed.  Who wants to experience rejection like that?

But when I think about confession as a simple statement of agreement or acknowledgement of something already known to be true, everything changes.

When my boys turned over other rocks to move them, they knew what they would find and they flipped rocks with vigor.  When I see my confession as simple agreement with an existing truth, I am no longer shining the light on a dark, hidden place no one has seen before.  I am now exploring a place God wants to show me because he already sees it and knows how ugly it is and he loves me anyway.

When I confess under these circumstances, I am not exposed as shameful, I recognize what God (and probably others) already see and agree, “Yep, my heart is a mess!”  I am finally able to repent – not because I am weighed down with guilt and see condemnation, but because I am lifted up by love and can see my sin clearly.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.  For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.   I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.  — Psalms 32:1-5