I have been thinking about this one for a long time: what occurs in the process of reconciliation? What comes next after realizing the need for such action?
I think it’s confession, but I’m not really sure. Confession is a practice that I think the Protestant church left in the dust during the mad dash away from Roman Catholicism. I think it was a huge loss. No, I’m not very comfortable with the idea of confessing one’s sins only to a priest and asking that man to bless and absolve you and give you acts of penance.* However, James is pretty clear that we are to confess to one another and to pray for each other–so that we may be healed. So I think that confession is a necessary practice in the Christian life. Yes, I will admit that it is an extremely painful one; full of shame and fear. The last time I really confessed something to Ghena, I bawled my eyes out and was terrified that she would be incredibly disappointed in me.** But the muck in our lives needs to be dragged up and out into the light, for only in the light can things be dealt with.
In the whole reconciliation process, I think that confession is key. Or perhaps, a better word is honesty. I don’t know about you, but I lie to myself all the time. “I’m ok,” I repeat over and over when really, I am the farthest thing from okay. It is scary to be honest with one’s self. I think that’s because when we’re honest, we have to see all the ugly that is within our hearts. Somedays it’s astounding what we find in the dark places of our souls. But if we want to get anywhere, we have to be honest and really recognize our broken, wicked selves for what they are. If we aren’t honest with ourselves, we aren’t able to see the need for a saviour. Even if we acknowledge that need intellectually, we can’t accept it on a heart level.
And when we recognize the sin our own lives, I think it points out the way we sin against others. Oh yeah, last week I was ticked because my mum complained I’d gotten in late. Doesn’t she know that I wanted to be at my friend’s just a little longer? Oh wait, I promised to be home so she could go to bed, and, oh yeah, I was aware of the time and I selfishly chose to stay out, thereby giving my mother a migraine the next day. Hm. When I’m honest, I was incredibly self centered on my own needs and desires and neglected to acknowledge those of my mother and her inability to sleep through any noise above a soft whisper. It’s hard, becuase I want to stamp my feet like a little child and say that I was in the right, that I needed that time with my friend. But then I read about Jesus and remember it’s not about me. And I really should have been more respectful and loving. I should have honoured my mother.
I had to confess that. To myself. To God.
And then to my mum.
Eeek. Confession is hard.
But let’s be realistic. If we never confessed anything, we’d never see the need for reconciliation. We’d live in our own self righteous worlds, surrounded by our loving self. And eventually, we’d end up alone. And when humanity is designed to live in community,*** I think that reconciliation is worth the humiliating step of confession.
*I understand how penance started, and yes, logically, it made sense. But at the same time, it flirts with a very dangerous line of theology (that is often not adressed) where penance simply becomes another method for earning salvation which cannot be earned only gifted and not even the faith we have is ours but that also was given to us so that none of us can boast. (Paul’s words, not mine)
**This only goes to show the depth of not only my insecurity but also my misunderstanding both of Ghena and God. He doesn’t say “go clean yourself up and then come back. Mhm, now we’re talking, that’s better. Here’s some love.” He, like Ghena, simply smiles sadly at the ways my sin has hurt me (and others) but takes me into his arms, tells me to hush and then says “I’ve got it covered. Jesus has got it covered. And I love you.”
***Check out the first two chapters of Genesis. God creates man [humanity] in “our” image, often considered a reference to the Triune nature. So man [humanity] is designed to live in deep, intimate community–I think that’s why God says it isn’t good for man [man!] to be alone, because “alone” isn’t the complete image of the Triune God.