Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.James 5:16
Have you ever asked for help and gotten the strangest advice imaginable and thought ‘no way that will ever help’? We had that the first week or two of DP.
Our problem was a simple one; the deadbolt on the door of our house was nigh impossible to turn with the key. When we asked if something could be done to help, I thought that the solution would be WD-40 or oil, but to my surprise we were told to put soap on our key. That’s right, soap. Just lather the key in soap a couple times and slide it in and out of the keyhole and the lock will turn, we were told.
There was no way we were going to do something as ridiculous as that. So we kept fighting with the lock, and several times we gave up and left our house unlocked while we were at the office. Finally, we gave in and lathered our key in dish soap, and could lock and unlock our door. The weather had also warmed up so, stubborn as we were, we insisted that it was because the temperature change in the ground had caused the house to shift ever so slightly. We felt justified in this when the temperature dropped again and we had more trouble with our lock.
After fighting a few days we gave in and tried more soap, and lo and behold! Our lock worked; not that we were going to admit that, though. Not long after some of the guys came to get some things out of the storage at our house, and the lock was stuck. They tried everything you could think of – warming the key and lock with a lighter, wiggling and jiggling, you name it. Meanwhile Susana, our house mentor, was standing by, thinking about the soap. Finally, very sheepishly, she offered to try the soap. They had the same opinion we had about it, but had nothing to lose. Five minutes later, the lock was open. Fancy that.
Fast forward two months into March, and due to the lovely spring weather I opened the windows. When our house smelled fresh and springy and I was tired of being cold I went to close the window, but the lock wouldn’t budge. So I went on the prowl for some WD-40 and, lacking that, was going to put some vegetable oil on it. Then I remembered our previous success with the soap, so I daubed a generous amount into the slider, flipped the lock a couple times to get it around inside, and once again it worked perfectly. So, I think it’s fair to say that I am now convinced.
The first weekend of the Discipleship Program (DP) we went to a Spiritual Renewal conference in Guelph, and one of the things that was talked about there was confession, the ‘go to the priest and confess your sins’ kind of confession. For me, coming from an Evangelical background, that was a struggle. My first thought was ‘what in the world have I gotten myself into?’ and I thought about going home. But I had only just arrived, and I knew that God had called me to come here – how could I give up so easily? So I prayed about it, and the Lord gave me His peace, and I stayed. I saw in the lives of the staff the real Christianity that I had been searching for and wanted to live; they weren’t perfect, they never pretended to be, but when they fell down they got up again, they forgave each other, they grew… and I desperately wanted that. I still do.
We were encouraged to ‘make confession’, but in no way were we compelled or forced to. Everything that we were and are being taught we are encouraged to go back, to the Bible and the early church fathers, to try and test for ourselves and see the background of different practices of faith. And there, in the very pages of the Bible I thought I had known so well, I found things. Verses like James 5:16, Numbers 5:6-7, 1 John 1:8-9, and Proverbs 28:13 had a new meaning. I had always been taught (truthfully) to confess my sins to God, and that no one else needed to ever know about it. But I had also been taught (not exactly in words) that if I did something wrong (taking cookies without asking, for example) that I should confess. I had heard of confession, but always associated it with Catholicism and thought ‘that’s good for them, I guess, but I don’t need it’. The more I thought about it, the less strange it seemed. I had done a form of confession before, not to a priest or pastor but to a very close, godly friend when I was really struggling with a destructive sin pattern in my life, and the freedom that it gave me was bliss. So, like the soap on our door, I decided to try it.
Last summer I was in a situation that hurt a friend very deeply. I knew that I had done wrong, I had confessed to the Lord, asked forgiveness of my friend, and done everything I could to make things right. Though I knew that I had been forgiven in my head, I still carried the weight of guilt of what I had done, and felt condemned. So I went to one of the leader’s (the same one who told us to use the soap on our lock 😊) and confessed. The peace I felt when he spoke the words of Jesus to me, instead of just reading them myself, reminding me that I was forgiven and that there is ‘no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1a)’ removed all guilt from my soul. I don’t have to guess or hope that I ‘did enough’ to make up for what I did, and I know that if fear or guilt tries to creep back into my heart I can go back, receive prayer and encouragement and be strengthened to keep fighting.
I’ve read some about ‘locks’ and ‘keys’ in the Christian life, but sometimes it just feels like the key is stuck in a rusty lock. For me, confession has been like soap to make the lock turn.