Ten years ago, a trauma occurred in our home. I have no intention of being melodramatic, but to a 5 year old little boy, and a 3 year old little girl, sometimes seemingly benign events can be emotionally scarring.
One ordinary afternoon, my son found himself tenuously straddling between two barstools set at our kitchen island. Standing on the lower foot rests, he tried to steady the wobbly furniture as he was carrying on a conversation in his five year old wiggly way. Happy and contented, relational and active…
…until one of the barstools gave way.
A loud thud penetrated the living room air.
We stood frozen, assessing the situation. He was okay, for a moment.
But suddenly began to scream with a vengeance, coupled with hysterical sobs, for there on the floor was his sister’s favorite china doll.
The barstool landed so as to perfectly severe the doll’s head from her body as she lay there on the ground. I have to admit that it was a bit like something out of a horror movie. Unnatural. Creepy, even.
Yet, more than what he saw in that broken doll, was what he felt in ruining his sister’s prized possession.
Guilt. Overwhelming, uncontrollable guilt. He felt responsible, to blame, and he was desperate for relief.
“Spank me, mommy! Spank me!”
“Baby, I am not going to spank you. It was an accident.”
“No, please, spank me!!!”, he yelled with insistence.
How else is a 5 year old to deal with his feelings of guilt? He wanted the pain of a spanking to open up his heart and release the burden. I stood my ground and did not spank him that day, but I realized that as he aged, he needed to be taught how to free himself from guilt. Its the life that God wants for him, and a life worth pursuing.
I think many adults were never taught this, and so we move about our daily lives with a dark guilt clouds hovering over us, whether that guilt be false or true, past or present. And our hiding and pretending nothing is wrong suffocates us, only making that guilt grow. The only answer is to bring it into the light, exposing it to grace and truth.
Easier said than done, right? Even when we know that confession (admitting our guilt aloud) is the right thing to do, there is often an invisible barrier of fear that abruptly blocks our way, or maybe we don’t even know the right way to go about it.
May I suggest some practical steps to confession?
1. Ask God to examine your life.
Sometimes we walk around with guilty feelings or an air of despondency and we aren’t exactly sure why. Maybe we know we don’t enjoy being in a certain environment, or a certain situation haunts us, but we have never stopped to pinpoint the exact error. Sometimes we sin, and we don’t even know it.
We need to sit in God’s presence and ask Him to show us why we feel guilty.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” Psalm 139:23-24.
2. Identify the sin
Once God has given us an idea as to where we have sinned, we need to name it. Is it truly sin or is it false accusations from the enemy? Is it jealousy, or greed, or anger, or rebellion, or lust, or lying, or stealing, or covetousness? The process of journaling your thoughts and feelings helps to uncover it, or maybe a counseling session is in order, but we can only deal with what we can name.
3. Pray about it and push past the fear.
Then, we need to tell God in prayer. Cry over your sin, tell Him you are sorry, ask Him to remove it from you, to make you pure of heart.
And ask Him to give you the courage to talk to another person about it.
4. Confess it out loud.
This is where it gets scary. We are so used to hiding when we do something wrong. It’s natural. Remember Adam and Eve? It’s the first thing they did when they ate the fruit. We don’t want to expose ourselves to the feelings of shame. But, the Bible is very clear that we are to tell another trusted Christian. Admit it, bring it out in the open, out of the secret recesses of your heart and mind. Let the words loose the shackles of fear and pain so that healing can begin. Authenticity and integrity will become a soothing balm to your soul.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16
5. Go to the person that you have offended.
Here is where you make it right. Tell the truth to the person to whom you lied. Pay back what you wrongfully took. Apologize for the hurtful words spoken. Simply say, “What I did was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”
They may or may not forgive you, you may even need to pay some consequences, but at least you have stepped out in faith to try and reconcile.
6. Let it go.
Sometimes we deal with a situation, confess our sin and move on with life, but the enemy of our soul wants to hold it against us so that we live a life of defeat instead of the victory that is rightfully ours through Christ. The feelings of guilt may become stirred up again, but there is a rock upon which we stand, a truth that we can claim. In that moment, simply say out loud, “God, thank you that you have forgiven me for this and that I am no longer guilty in Jesus. I rest in this truth today.” That’s it. You may have to do this dozens of times, but it’s worth doing as we fight for our freedom. As my husband shared in his sermon this past weekend, “Confession is letting go and and letting God do His job.” You don’t need to take it back from Him. You are forgiven.
I think that most of us are too old for a guilt-releasing spanking. Thankfully, we have Scriptural words and tools to help us live in the light of truth and in the path of freedom.