But most of us, especially in Protestant churches, balk outright at the idea of confession. It's not that we don't like honesty... I mean, honesty is good and all. Most of us claim to be honest people. And that's the biggest lie we tell. "Confessing to another could let people see who we really are. It could harm our carefully manicured reputation. This is why confession is the most powerful antidote to the nastiest sin of all—pride." (Keith Drury) Subject to our pride, we will almost always agree with the principle of honest confession, but almost none of us will engage regularly in the practice.
Why? Confession is the ultimate ego-smashing tool the Word has given us to work out our faith together. Besides being, you know, a biblical mandate for our daily lives as professing Christians, confession is also the stepping stone into the ministry of vulnerability. That doesn't mean we should go running out into the street to shout our sins from the corner. It doesn't mean we should start vomiting our spiritual sickness onto other people without permission or filter. "We don’t have to confess everything to everybody, but we certainly ought to confess at least some things to somebody." (Drury)
James tells us to "confess your sins to each other," meaning those of "you" (us) within the Church, meaning some matters are best handled between believers. But when we start stripping our sins of their power over us and start stepping boldly into the power of Christ in us, our honest confession can become an unprecedented channel for connection and healing and outreach as we interact daily in the unchurched world around us. In the ministry of vulnerability, confession of our sins among one another can filter into Spirit-led disclosure among others that can forge connection and community like little else can.
Disclosure comes from the language of therapy. It includes telling about not only wrong things we have done but also things that have not traditionally fallen under the category of confession... These secrets need to come into the light. Confession, by contrast, is a spiritual and moral term. It involves the naming of specific sins as part of the process of repentance and reconciliation... 'In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.'" (Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them)
If we're walking in step with the Spirit, the Spirit will discern for us where to speak up and where to not. God brings us into face-to-face relationship with other people every day. Every person is a unique being with a unique set of wounds and weaknesses. Every interaction is an opportunity to take down our walls and reach across the divide to make a connection God has offered in that moment. It is really easy and really tempting to ignore, overlook, and second-guess these opportunities. But in the times when I've been in tune enough with the Spirit to step into one of those real-time moments of the Lord's leading to connect with another person in honest disclosure, we both have been blessed.
Here's an easy example. Just this week, I had myself all worked up over a simple little matter of discomfort and avoidance. See, last Thursday, I committed to meeting weekly with my counselor to build regularity and consistency in that relationship. That meant making some practical arrangements in real life. For in order to meet with one's counselor on a weekly basis, one must take time away from one's full-time job on a weekly basis.
Believe me, even with the best of intentions, I ran the full gamut of over-complicating that conversation in my head. I was thinking about how I'm still relatively new in my current position and my boss has already shown me grace in my personal matters and I don't want to abuse that flexibility and I don't have a lot of PTO built up and I'll have to make up the time at work and I don't know how long this will go on and what a pain in the rear and I don't know if it's really worth the trouble and, and, and... and I almost had myself talked into "rescheduling" for some other time never to actually happen in the foreseeable future, which has been a part of my pattern in the past and one of the contributing factors for never getting anywhere with this counseling thing no matter how many good intentions I had back in the day.
So all these things considered, I went the whole day on Monday before I caught my boss at her desk, right before 5:00. All of a sudden, it was one of those now-or-never moments, and I realized if I didn't speak up right then, I was going to put it off indefinitely and probably never follow through.
So I shrugged, accepted the Spirit's leading, stepped into the vulnerability, and said, "Hey, can I talk to you about some scheduling stuff? I'm going to be taking advantage of the EAP [the employee assistance program benefit offered by my employer specifically for the purpose of counseling and promoting mental health in the workplace], and I'd like to find a time each week that impacts work as little as possible."
"Huh," my supervisor said, pulling up her Outlook calendar. "How about first thing on Thursday mornings? We aren't typically getting slammed with calls first thing on Thursday mornings."
Well, that wasn't so hard, right? We over-complicate this proper disclosure thing a lot. When I stop looking for every possible alternative to get out of just fessing up to the realities of life, these conversations become actually pretty simple in the end. My boss and I had the scheduling matter worked out in about two minutes, tops. But that's not the point of the story.
The point is that, more importantly, my boss and I went on to connect on a personal level. That's the ministry of vulnerability. That's the vulnerability of disclosure.
I didn't have to mention the EAP; I could've just said, "I have a recurring appointment coming up for the next several weeks." But when I disclosed to my boss that I'm using my employer's EAP benefit to engage in counseling, the Spirit opened up a healing channel for both of us. I had an opportunity to share with my boss a high-level view of some stuff going on right now, and she stepped into an opportunity to share in return. Unspecifically, I mentioned some "life things" and "mom issues." And I noticed the way my boss tuned in to that particular vulnerability. And next thing you know, the scheduling discussion was done and gone, but we were still talking after 5:00, relating about the complexities of family relationships and getting a better read on each other as complex people with complex lives outside of the workplace.
That's what the ministry of vulnerability does in the area of disclosure, when we bring it into daily life. When we let our scars show, we become relatable people with relatable wounds and weaknesses. We connect and share in real ways that matter in our everyday relationships. And it doesn't have to be complicated.
Next >>> The Risks and Rewards of Letting Our Scars Show