A SURPRISING LIBERATION by Rachel Gilson for Core Christianity
GNN Note – If you’ve been through a 12 step program, like Alcoholics Anonymous, and you were gut-wrenching honest during the steps, then you already know. If you haven’t I would suggest it for everyone, especially those that would like to have a relationship with God. It is terrifying, liberating and freeing all at once. It takes confession to a level most people are not familiar, nor do they wish to face. Once a person makes it through the first time, the nearness of God is unexplainable, intangible and oh so desirable. The good news is you have no idea what awaits on the other side, it is truly rebirth. It is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and as you descend you realize you will land in His arms.
“What surprised me was that confession wasn’t humiliating—it was liberating.”
I sat across from a young woman who said this sentence so calmly, even casually. Yet these words hit me with full force. They dismantled one of the stealthiest lies in sanctification: that admission of wrongdoing is disaster.
It’s important to note what kind of confession she was not talking about, which is the naming of an act or thought to God in prayer as wrong. As she described her process of first trusting and following Jesus as a young adult, she had been quick to understand scripturally and logically that one should confess sins to God. After all, he knows everything anyway, and it seemed like a time-tested religious practice. She didn’t experience this act as humiliating, nor did she expect it to. But neither did she experience it as fully liberating.
Perhaps you’ve been there as well. You’ve believed (perhaps functionally if not theologically) that your piety is all about you and God, so naming your sins to him will check them off. After all, 1 John 1:8-9 is a promise! For certain missteps, confession before God alone moves you to a different place. But all of us have experienced periods of time where, no matter how often we may acknowledge something as sin in prayer, there seems precious little relief.
Richard Foster states it well in his classic work Celebration of Discipline, when he reminds us of our tendency to “doubt our forgiveness and despair at our confession [to God privately]. We fear that perhaps we have made confession only to ourselves, and not to God.” The lack of sensing liberation can lead us to doubt the efficacy of our prayer, or even God’s character.