Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lenten Discipline -- April 10

Lenten discipline of the day:
confess a secret

There's a website called "Postsecret" and reading its archives opens up a vast window into the human soul, I think.  People send in creatively designed and composed postcards to confess the secrets of their lives that haunt them.  New "secrets" are posted each Sunday.  Some are funny, some are sad beyond belief, and I admit that some hit much too close to home.  I check the site somewhat regularly because it reminds me of the burdens people carry with them that are too painful to share with even the ones they love the most.  It is easier, somehow, to deal with the truth of their lives anonymously.  

It reminds me of what Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together when he says we should confess our sins to other brothers and sisters in Christ.  I have always thought he is asking quite a lot.  But reading such sites as suggests to me that perhaps what all people desire and long for is to be fully know, not just by God as when we confess in prayer, but by one another.  

Is there a truth, painful or otherwise, in your life that you long to share with someone you love and trust?  What makes you fearful to confess a secret?  Are there truths that really cannot be shared?

“Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother?  God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience.  But a brother is sinful as we are.  He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin.  Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to a holy God?  But if we do, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution.  And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness?  Self-forgiveness can never lead to a breach with sin; this can be accomplished only by the judging and pardoning Word of God itself.  Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God?  God gives us this certainty through our brother.  Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception.  A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.  As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sin everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.  But since the sin must come to light some time, it is better that it happens today between me and my brother, rather than on the last day in the piercing light of the final judgment.  It is a mercy that we can confess our sins to a brother.  Such grace spares us the terrors of the last judgment.” (Life Together, pp. 115-16)