Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spiritual Formation 10: CONFESSION

The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.

  • Augstine of Hippo

This week's reading about Spiritual Formation has to do with Confession. This isn't my favorite topic! This makes me nervous. This makes me nervous because of what's in you, not because of what's in me. I view the believing-community as one that is full of sinners before it's a community of saints. From my perspective, we all have done shameful things. To discover that one person or another has done something awful does not surprise me or catch me off guard very often. I am well aware of the condition of mankind. We are off track, we are deprived, we do horrible things… this is why we need a savior. As a pastor, people have let me into their lives and trusted me with their secrets.

I think confession is amazingly powerful, but it requires so much vulnerability!

I'm not convinced that the majority of Christians can break free from the bonds of hypocrisy. Many people think that others are more spiritual than themselves. People often view themselves as the only ones who aren't living holy lives and continue to struggle with many things. This is especially true as people think of Pastors. It seems that Pastors aren't supposed to have faults, struggles, or sins. They must have it all together or they shouldn't be a pastor. This view of others in the Christian community make it very difficult for many people to confess their own sins and isolation becomes rampant.

But what if we saw our community as one that is full of sinners? Would the power of mutual confession bring healing and victory? One of the reasons that the Celebrate Recovery movement is so powerful is that these people start by identifying themselves as broken and in need. On the other hand, how many people walk into church communicating that they are broken and needy? We put on our best clothes. Even if our spouse has irritated us, we put on our best smile as we shake hands, give hugs and sing happy songs. We view church as a community of saints. I can't tell you how many people that I've met over the years who have actually told me that they don't want to go to church because they aren't "good enough". Even the non-believers get the impression that church-goers are really good people. What part does that lack of confession play into this tragic situation?

I think that Confession is the number one most important spiritual formation discipline for the American church. I think it's more important that going to church on Sundays (gasp!) or praying or reading the bible. I think that mutual confession should lead us to church, to bible reading and to prayer.

At the same time, I'm the Chief Resistor to confession. I can be completely honest with God about all the wretched stuff inside of me. But, I confess, that I'm not so ready to confess to you.


Spiritual Formation 09: Retreat

Silent Retreat:

Part of the requirements for my Spiritual Formation Class was to take a Spiritual {Silent} Retreat, and then we are to add the event to our Journal.

I went to my "normal" spot near Bass Lake. I hiked up the trails, along the water. I wish that my retreat could have been near the Ocean, but the mountains are too shabby. There isn't a ton to report regarding this event. I began by appreciate the beauty of God's creation. By "appreciate" I mean that I actually told God "Thank You" over and over for many specific things that I saw. I felt that a generalized, catch-all "thank you" would be way too shallow. So, for the birds and the sounds that they made I said, "Wow, thanks". For the Water, I was thankful for its beauty and the sounds that it made, and then I was grateful for its life-giving qualities. I made notes of the things for which I was grateful (I've since lost the notes). I went on and on like this for a long time. I was reminded of several scripture verses about thankfulness – "in everything give thanks" and references that I found in the Psalms. My thankfulness began to turn into praise and worship. Then I began to sing songs. This went on for a long time as I walked and paid close attention to God's creation.

Additionally, I took time to make confessions to God about my own life. I noted this as an interesting chronology; after I spent a great amount of time praising and thanking God, I realized my own smallness in comparison to God. I didn't focus on my smallness as a woe-is-me type of realization. Rather, I felt quite secure in God. My smallness was in stark contrast to God's otherness, and that turned into a focus on my own needs. I was acutely aware that the only real changes in my life could happen because of God. I was very aware of my own powerlessness to forgive my own sin or to save my own soul. I also was quite aware that I wanted God's help concerning difficult things/decisions to be made. I was aware that the best thing for my children would be for me to have God's insight into their lives and their needs. So, I asked God for help and insight and wisdom and strength and so on. The same for my wife – The same for myself.

This was basically my retreat. I enjoyed my time. I didn't feel like I had some earth-shaking revelation, but as I said, I did enjoy the time away fully focused on God, His creation and His works in my life.

Monday, October 25, 2010