Confession; what a heavy word. It's a scary word in many ways, a call to air out the dirty places inside us, a call to be vulnerable with someone else. This is not normal today, we're so focused on our privacy, so focused on how we appear to others, that confession goes against most of what we believe is good and healthy for us. Yet the Bible calls us to confess our sins to one another and to pray for each other so that we might be healed. This is soul sickness healing, but I believe it also is a part of physical healing because our souls and bodies are intertwined with each other, and part of finding healing within our communities.
I have been blessed to have a couple of fellow pastors that I have held myself accountable to, safe people to confess to. I searched these people out after reading Bonhoeffer's Life Together where he writes that real repentance and change only comes when we confess our sins to someone else. I didn't want to accept this for myself at first because it's scary to be so open and vulnerable with someone else, and yet as I reflected on my relationship with God and others in my life, I began to see the wisdom and blessing of confession. Too often confession is general, "forgive me for the wrong I've done and the things I've left undone." Big deal, what has really been confessed, what exactly have you done wrong and what steps are you going to take to not do this wrong again? So you left something undone, what is it and what are you going to do about it? General confession doesn't call you to change, specific confession does. Confessing specific sins to God is good and healthy, but when you confess them to someone else, God gives you someone to kick you in he behind to actually do the change that repentance is supposed to be about.
This is where wisdom comes in, you need to be wise in who you choose to confess to, someone who is mature and strong in their own relationship with God, someone who can keep their mouth shut. There is too much holy gossip in prayer requests in the Christian community. You then need to approach this person and be clear in what you are asking of them, to be your confessor and to hold you accountable for real repentance. Over time, these relationships often become a place of mutual confession as trust and blessing grows. Asking God to lead you to such a person is the best place to begin. I believe with Bonhoeffer that when this person forgives you, you also are forgiven through this person by God and the whole community. This allows us to face life as God wants us to, with the experience of forgiveness and grace, but also with someone who is holding us accountable for real change, for doing the hard work of reconciliation and restoration.
The more private you are in your sin, the more likely you will never really experience the hope, the forgiveness and the change that God desires to make in you.