I was reminded of this beautiful Psalm as I was reading a friend’s blog the other day:
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin.
It’s so good to be reminded of Confession, and why it’s so good for us. I should definitely be going more often– even when I acknowledge my sins/faults to myself, it’s totally different than repenting before God. Repentance is one of the most important aspects of a Christian life– daresay, more important than “being a good person”. Repentance involves acknowledging where we are weak, where we need Christ, but it also involves rooting the sin out of your life. It can’t just be an apology– repentance HAS to involve change. It’s essential to loving God, which is the first commandment.
The last line really stands out to me: “you forgave the guilt of my sin”. As a Protestant, I was always taught to believe that this “guilt” the Psalmist is referring to is the damning effect of sin. By forgiving my guilt, God is allowing me to go to heaven one day, removing that sin from His perception of me.
While I’m really NOT in the mood to go all “Orthodox vs. Protestant” (really), I would like to offer a second read, one that I think is extremely important on a practical level.
The “guilt” of my sin could also (especially in this context) be referring to the effect that sin has on us in the here and now. It’s heavy, it hurts. People who fail to confess their sins on a regular basis literally fall apart physically, because the spiritual and the physical body are inextricably linked. When our soul is sinning, our body pays the price. When we fail to confess our sins, our body can’t handle it. The Psalmist says it well: “My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer “. It’s not quite right to say, “I feel as though a weight was just lifted off of my shoulders!”– once the guilt is gone, a weight literally HAS been lifted off!
But most people, most Christians even, don’t confess their sins on a consistent basis. I’m not talking only about capital “C” Confession, and I’m definitely not talking about “accountability groups”, which, let’s face it, don’t really work. As a result, most people walk around with this build-up of guilt. Layers and layers, born from years and years of sinning without true repentance. Many make New Years Resolutions and attempt to change the sin before ever confessing it. Doesn’t work. Changing the outside action doesn’t get rid of the layers of guilt, it just keeps one from adding additional filth.
I think this is why so many in our society feel the need to self-medicate. They are running from the filthy layers that have accumulated and are weighing them down. I know people who can’t sleep without having music or the tv on. A good majority of the people I know are incredibly busy. Who do you know who HASN’T seen a therapist? How many people do we know with addictions? How many people skip apologizing and instead just try to jump straight to “changing”? Everyone has a “go to” place to escape the guilt.
A friend of ours said this at lunch yesterday: “People are used to ‘hearing God’ in the earthquake, in the crisis. What about the ‘still, small voice’?” It’s true– why are people so afraid of silence? So unable to spend 10 minutes, just sitting– no book, no radio, no conversation, no task. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw someone do that?
My go-to addiction, sadly, is self reliance. I know whenever I’m trying to control EVERYTHING that I’m actually running away from repentance. Running away from confessing certain favorite sins of mine. Currently? My “favorite” sin is being judgmental. ALL. THE. TIME. I should be going to confession every day for this– it’s a definite constant battle. The moment I let myself dwell on even ONE judgmental thought, it takes root, and for the rest of the day I’m fighting a constant war within myself not to think bad things about others. It takes vigilant effort to keep this from happening.
Please pray for me, a sinner, as I prepare for Confession sometime this week. I’ve been going to Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as our usual Sunday liturgy, but most of the time I’m in the choir singing or helping Jesse take care of G. Not much time for Confession! Luckily, Jesse’s told me that he also needs to go sometime this week. Perhaps we can devote one service entirely to this. I hate to go on Saturday “just to do confession”– wouldn’t want to be one of “those” families! (again, my judgmental thoughts!!!)