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Category Archives: sin

Confession and Birth

My job, put into simplistic common descriptors, is to be a midhusband to confession.
I had no idea going into this what a privileged role that would be. Beforehand, I worried about what I might hear from gang-member addict dealers, from PTSD suffering military personnel, from spoiled irresponsible cocaine dependent rich kids, from addicted anesthesiologists and from hulking bulking policemen and sports figures, from ordinary seeming mothers of young children and supposedly doting successful husbands. I worried I’d be loaded up with ‘crap’ that they’d offloaded onto me.
It doesn’t work that way at all! With one or two exceptions God lets me ‘forget’ or certainly not carry the burden of someone else’s erroneous behaviour. That does not mean that my naive ears don’t feel they’re losing their virginity though. They do. It is painful. I am repeatedly deeply troubled by the height, the breadth and the depth of self-and-other destroying behaviour the human creature is capable of creating and enduring and persisting in.
My job is to assist patients in writing their 4th step and then to ‘hear’ their 5th.
The process has such wisdom to it. Its wisdom affects me, has me feeling privileged, feeling part of something ageless and not bound to earth. The longer I am in it the stronger is my grief of over how the ‘church’ handles the same issues. There is a better way.
Step 4 consists of taking a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of oneself. Its best chance of working well is if the inventory maker has accepted they — believing they are the makers of their own destiny — are not running their life well at all and had allowed a substance or activity to take over their lives, creating unbelievable chaos and destruction. They then need to turn to some power outside of and greater than themselves for help and turn their destiny and life over into that power’s control.
Then they look at their life, and get a GPS fix on where they are and where they have been and what exactly life has been like. They write it all down: their believing they know best, their not being in touch with their true feelings or corking them and presenting something more pleasant so people will like them more (or so they believe), their unrealistic expectations that cause them to let themselves down and be let down by others, the fears they hold (most often fear of rejection or abandonment), the things they feel guilty for, the grudges they hold and carefully nurse by restating their case to anyone — grudges that bottle up anger inside them. And then the way they always end up feeling sorry for themselves. ALWAYS, no matter what they try differently, they end up hating themselves and those around them and in the despair of misguided understanding of life they turn to a chemical or gambling or sex or work or exercise for relief. It doesn’t come.
So they come to us chaplains when they do their 5th step and share all that. They know they are sharing it with God as they understand God as well. It takes 2 hours on average. And in the process many are completely astonished to find they’ve lost heaviness. They come in hunched, anxious, jittery, eye-averting, burdened, fearful and sometimes still playing sleight of word distraction games. Protecting their disease, not even seeing they are doing it. They leave lighter and enlighted to have found that confession is good, that holding is unhealthy.
And that result is the tremendous privilege of it! It is akin to the being born again that Nicodemous could not understand. The inner child who’s emotional and psychological growth was halted when it learned it’s feelings did not seem to fit being expressed in their world, FINALLY makes contact, and begins to stir the person toward Life abundant, Life as God intended.
The process works for Atheist, Agnostic and Hindu alike. It works for Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim and Buddhist. And it works for both excommunicated and righteous Christians. A salvation process is born in a place we don’t expect it. A spiritual journey is undertaken. God is connected with a sinner, and freedom is found. The sinner is taught to be open to let God be known to them. The barren place becomes fertile again, the place of shame transforms to a place of Glory.
It is truly a wonder to be a midhusband in Confession and ReBirth

 

Sin: more a list violation or a relationship break?

I was involved with a discussion about what sin is. Someone spoke of a “list” form of identifying sin and a “relational” understanding. This was my input into the dialogue:

I want to know the list of things that are sin, for my own sake and for the sake of helping others keep out of it. I want to know actions to avoid. It comes naturally for me. Because of that, I’m drawn to people who can definitively give me the list, saying God helped them figure it out.

I want to know the list of good things to do as well.
That’s why my heart beats faster and my mind pays attention when someone asks: “What do I have to do to obtain eternal life?” When I hear that, I expect to be able to add to my do and don’t lists.

But the way my Saviour handled this very question is giving me reason to re-evaluate the approach that comes naturally. When Jesus was asked the question, he painted a word picture in response in which the list-oriented people used the rule book to avoid showing compassion, and the list-less person ended up being the good example. Hmmmm. What might he be showing me, a list-wanting person?
I’m still working it out.
But the more I struggle and reflect, the more a relational approach to sin makes sense. It humbles me in its grace and it’s simplicity. Something in me wants it to be harder than it appears.
It looks more and more like evandadam* broke relationship by trying to be equal to God, then hiding.
I can relate. I want to be God in my life and in the lives of others. I don’t want to submit or take responsibility for what I have done that broke relationship.

Sin is now less about violating a list item and more about internal attitude for me.
So, profoundly, the message God left is more a message of how hard God has worked to relate to me and to others and the price God has paid to make relationship possible again. God has made a way for list item violations that I do so readily to be dismissed, to no longer be a barrier between God and me, if I just accept that God loves me that much, stop being God myself, and admit them. I come out of hiding, accept God’s outstretched mighty hand, and walk the Way.

A story I’ve been told from my toddlerhood came back to me recently. I came in from playing outside, and my mother figured it was time to try teach me to wash my own face. So she held me up in front of the bathroom mirror and pointed out the boy in the mirror, and after some coaching got me to see that he had dirt on his face. She asked me what we could do to fix it, handing me a warm wet “Doekie” while she asked.
What did I do?
I started washing the face of the boy in the mirror of course!

The story is such a wonderful illustration of what I still tend to do naturally. I try to clean the logs out of other people’s eyes and am in danger of obsessing about them and their logs and dirt, all the while avoiding cleaning my own eyes and heart, or having them cleaned. People are drawn to me as a good leader and teacher and one who “tells it like it is” if I do that, but meanwhile crud builds in me. It’s frightening.

Pete, searching out the godly way.

* just a creative way of saying Eve and Adam, partly because it can be turned into E. Vandadam which sounds like a Dutch origin name