If any of you spent much time around Don Paterson, ZPC’s former executive director, you know that he was fond of saying that life is all about relationships. I believe this is true. God is a relational being and since we are made in his image (Gen. 1:27), we are also relational beings. God has wired us to be connected to him and also to others…to live in community. This is not a surprising statement coming from the former small groups gal, right?
We know from Scripture that part of healthy community incorporates the act of confession. (1 John 1:9) But why is confession important and why is it so hard?
As you may know, I have gone back to school to study social work. In this process, I have been introduced to Brene Brown, Ph.D, LMSW, who is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. The way she does this is by interviewing lots and lots (like thousands) of people, one-to-one or in a group, and then recording the stories they tell her. Then, she goes back and pulls out common themes that she sees in people’s stories. What she has found is fascinating to me. She says her research shows:
- The ability to be connected to one another is why we are here.
- Shame and fear unravel connection.
- Shame is the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that—if someone else knows—will make me unworthy of connection?
- In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen…really seen.
- Worthiness or the belief that you are worthy of love and belonging combat shame.
What does all of this have to do with confession, you ask? Stay with me a bit longer… I feel as if these themes help answer the two questions I asked earlier.
Why is confession important? Confession is important because God made us for connection. But shame, fear, and our sense that we are not worthy work against connection. If we confess the sin, or “yuckiness” in our lives, we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and acknowledge that we are imperfect. Here’s the tricky part…if we stop at recognizing our imperfection, we can get bogged down in shame, overwhelmed with guilt, and miss out on the rest of what God has for us, which is that we are worthy of love and belonging. How do we know this? In 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul says: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Sanctified and justified are big, fancy words, but what they mean are this: God makes us holy or sets us apart and he says that we are not guilty! This is good news!
Why is confession so hard? I think it is because being vulnerable is hard and believing we are worthy is hard. The world wants us to believe that we have to earn everything; but God says that we are worthy of his love because he made it so. So if we can be vulnerable before God, the things that shame us can actually be what make us beautiful, which reminds me of a song…not surprising!
I hope this gives you encouragement for our homework this week…to write a prayer about the things that shame you and offer them to God (my paraphrase). Let us know how it goes.
#digzpc is the title of ZPC's Lenten series about spiritual practices. We encourage you to make comments about your experience with the practice of the week, which is simplicity this week. Also find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, if you participate in these media. When commenting there, please always use #digzpc so we can find your comments. Are you ready to dig?