Ashley and I strolled down the sidewalk in uptown Dallas. On a restaurant patio, waiters dished out fine Mexican cuisine to men and women chatting and laughing after a long day’s work. We glanced into the store windows that displayed the hottest trends in fashion, jewelry, and accessories, and were suddenly distracted by the Maserati and Lamborghini waiting in line for valet parking.
At last, we had arrived at Paciugo Gelato — an authentic Italian ice cream and cafe experience — the perfect place to be in the mid-summer heat.
We ordered our preference and sat down on the comfy chairs. Ashley crossed her legs, took a lick of her strawberry cheesecake gelato, and looked at me. The mild breeze blew one of her brunette curls across her cheek. Something important seemed to be on her mind. I dug my spoon into my chocolate fudge Amaretto, poking it a little.
“So … how have you been doing?” she asked.
I knew this wasn’t the typical “how are you” question that’s satisfied with a simple “fine,” but it was a sincere “how are you really doing?”
I thought about the angry words I said to my husband right before I’d left for the evening. We’d been in quite a few arguments lately. Just sitting there, I felt the heavy weight on my shoulders of being a new mom with inadequate sleep, working part-time, the commitments in our ministry, and the stress that came with my husband being in seminary full-time.
Even though Ashley had earned the right — we’d been doing life together in our community group for almost 2 years — I hesitated to share this with her.
“Things are going well,” I replied. “It’s been good. How about for you?” I said intentionally handing the conversation back to her.
She proceeded to talk about her week and some of the struggles she was facing. I helped her work through some upcoming decisions.
We headed back to the car and then home. It had been such a relaxing night but my heart felt uneasy and empty. What was that all about? I kept asking myself. Why did I have so much pride? Why couldn’t I tell her what was actually going on?
The next day and later on in the week, I came to my senses and realized my failure to be authentic about my weaknesses, struggles, and sin. I made a pretty “I have it all together” appearance a lot like my pristine surroundings that night. But I neglected to reveal any kind of imperfections on the inside. Like a plastic promise, I pretended to be what I was not.
Healing Broken Pieces
My response could have gone back to the way I viewed repentance and confession growing up. Repentance was a one-time deal between me and God. It meant that I did a 360-degree turn away from my sin and toward God, surrendering my will to His. It was the first step required in accepting Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. While this was biblical in every way, one crucial part was still missing — repentance and confession of my sins to other people regularly.
It just wasn’t something I did perhaps in fear of rejection or someone else finding out I wasn’t perfect after all. It was also just easier not to stir up any waters. But in the last few years, my view of confession and what it means to be authentic has been transformed into a “wholly biblical” one and it’s been life changing. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” I think the words “to one another” have been where my eyes often gloss over this verse.
Why does God require such a command, exactly?
As the verse continues on, confessing our sin aids in healing the tattered and broken pieces inside us. They are the places God knows about and is helping us through, but also the areas that others need to know too.
In order to plunge into the depths of those healing waters, we have to escape from isolation. It is then that our burdens are shared and we can be gently restored back into a right relationship with our holy God. Confessing our sin to one another helps us see we were created for community and relationships. We were created to embrace confession as a lifestyle.
That night, I didn’t want Ashley to bear my burden. I wanted to carry it on my own and just “give it to God.” I wanted to pack my sin up in a duct-taped box.
Bearing Burdens, Practicing Confession
Remembering, considering, and confessing sin is not an easy task. It requires humbling myself to walk backstage for a behind-the-scenes look into the dressing room of my soul — where there is no make-up or fancy dress to hide my shame, flaws, and insecurities. Even though it can be so bitter at first, in the end it is so sweet. It’s a “detergent for the soul” as the famous theologian Jonathan Edwards once said.
When Ashley and I met for community group several days later, I apologized. I admitted where I was at fault and confessed my pride and unwillingness to be real about the messy sin in my life that day. She smiled and shared how she knew I was holding something back (even though I thought I was off the hook). She assured me that I could come to her with whatever I was facing. And it was good to be reminded of that.
An authentic, godly woman — from the depths of me — this is what I long to be. And I want to struggle well to become this. I’m thankful that God is continuing to show me more and more about the healing He wants to give me, most of all, in my relationship with Him.
As Tim Keller says, “all of life is repentance.” So if that’s the case, and I believe it is, then confession must happen all the time to God and to the people he has put in our lives.
So the next time Ashley and I talk over gelato and she asks, “How are you?” I plan to tell her how I’m really doing.
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