Part 2 of 4 posts with a ritual to let the year and decade behind us rest; and prepare our hearts, minds and spirits to embrace all that is to come.
CONFESSION: Letting Go and Turning Around
Do you ever have a hard time looking in the mirror? The mirror reflects a story of life. Sometimes it says we are tired, other times a spark may be present that says some joy has entered our life; and often the mirror reflects our ordinary, “keep showing up” focus that greets each day with hope and possibility.
Occasionally, when we look in the mirror or take time to reflect on our lives, we get stalled in the land of past mistakes. Past mistakes, heartaches and wounds. It may be a conversation we wish we had handled differently or perhaps a missed opportunity to say anything at all. We hold regret for ways we have ignored or harmed others and it weighs so HEAVY; like a bag of bricks hanging around our neck. It is a yoke that causes pain, stress, shame and self-condemnation.
We also get stalled over wrongs we have not been able to let go of and they become CONSTRAINING and a bit like a prison cell that keeps us in constant pain. Over time, the weight of all of this becomes unbearable. God never intended for us to carry this weight through life. Jesus actually gave his very life so we don’t have to carry these burdens.
Confession is a way of letting go of what we have done and left undone. It clears our minds and spirits. I like to call it “saying my things”. The Scriptures indicate that when we are not able to “say our things” it hurts us so much we cannot fully live. It actually hurts our bodies as much as it hurts our minds and hearts!
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
– Psalm 32:1-5
We can confess our “stuff” straight to God. The Lord is able and more than willing to hear whatever is on our hearts and minds. When we hold it all in, it becomes much bigger than it started. Letting our “stuff” remain in the darkness is destructive; it hurts us. When we bring that out and let the light of Christ shine on it; it looses all power! That light overcomes the weight and shame the darkness was holding in so close. We get free!
So…yes! You can speak your mind. Especially if something is gnawing at you; that is the Spirit nudging you to bring it out and let it be redeemed. Forgiveness is realized in our speaking and bringing this to God. God actually invites us to do this; God is even waiting patiently for us to name these things so we can let them go and be free from the weight of sin we carry.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 11:28-29
Occasionally we are blessed with a truly trusted friend with whom we can be completely honest. They hear us without judgment and they listen with the ears of grace. If such a person is in your life, simply ask them to hear you say your things. It is a powerful and profound act of friendship to hear what someone needs to say out loud. It may be the greatest gift a friend gives you, or that you give to them. It is holy space.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
– Galatians 6:2
As we come to the end of the year and the end of a decade, here are some ways you can begin to let go of things you need to confess and turn your focus toward the one who created you and will guide you in the time ahead. Both are needed: confession and turning toward God. We call the turning, “repentance”.
- Pray Psalm 51. This is a beautiful and powerful prayer. David prayed this after he had committed adultery. David was a good man; a strong warrior and a humble king. AND he had lapses in judgment that were terrible. Adultery. Murder. Lies. We might say David had a pretty awful year. When he came to understand what he had done (someone brought it to his attention) it broke his heart and spirit. Once David let go of his sin and turned his heart back to God, his life took on an entirely new strength and his impact continues even to this day. This Psalm is David’s prayer to God; it is his confession. It can be yours too. Read it out loud as a prayer to God. Here is a link:
- Invite your “trusted friend” to coffee, dinner, a long walk… or whatever is good for you getting together. Ask them specifically, “Will you just listen so I can say my things? These are things I need to let go of…that I don’t want to carry into the year ahead.” Remember, a true friend is able to hear you and love you just as you are. This is a profound practice of friendship in Christ.
- Write / Paint / Send a picture. Do you need to write a note asking someone to forgive you? Do it! You can write it and send it to them if that fits the situation. But if it doesn’t fit– if sending is not something that would be good for the other person, you can always write the letter anyway and offer it as a prayer to God as a way of asking for forgiveness without further harm. God can move in situations when it is impossible for us to do it ourselves.
- Take some time to get away and talk with God. Set aside the phone and the computer. Get alone with God and say your things to the one who created you. God can take your worst thoughts and actions. God can take your anger and confusion. God can take your gut-level honesty. In sharing and confessing, we engage the redemptive actions of Jesus. The Lord waits patiently and eagerly for us to come humbly and honestly to speak with God. You can trust this. Do it. Get free of these burdens.
- As you pack away the Christmas decorations, let go of any disappointments from the holiday season. Be grateful for any ways you experienced love and joy. Release any hurts or regrets; don’t pack them into your boxes or ornaments…let them go! If you need to write them down and throw them away – do it! Let this year and decade rest with peace.
Here are a few prayer prompts to get you started in confession and repentance:
Lord, my heart and mind are heavy over this situation where I __________________.
I know it does not please you and that you teach us to live a different way. I struggle but I want so much to live differently. I am turning my attention away from _____________ and I am focusing on the direction that looks like ___________________________, because I know that pleases you, and it leads me to a life of freedom and peace. Please help me to be faithful and honor you with my life. I need you and I trust you.
Holy God, I need to forgive ____________________ for the wrong I feel has been done to me. I know we all fall short and we all sin. We all cause pain for others when we act in ways that are harmful and destructive. I am hurt but I need to forgive. Please help me now to let go of the grudge I hold. I pray for ________________ and ask you to work in their lives as you also work in mine. May we all find more peace and redemption; we are all in such need of your grace! Thank you for freeing me from this burden that weighs down my spirit.
God, I am so disappointed in ____________________________. My dreams were for something so different. I never expected this to happen and it is hard for me to move forward. Help me right now – to let this go – and to trust that you, my Creator and Redeemer, have a plan for me and my life that is beyond the disappointment I feel right now. Help me to let go and embrace a different life; a life where you go with me and will never leave me. Thank you for your great provision and love!
A Prayer for Us
Lord, we stand at the end of a decade with much on our hearts and minds. There are ways we have honored you but there are also so many ways we ignored you. We set our focus on our own desires and when you nudged us to see life through your eyes, we declined the invitation. We see our world in such pain and need, but we are helpless to change it – because, if we’re honest, we are so broken ourselves. Please forgive us and have mercy on the situations we are facing. We are your people and we need you. Free us for joyful obedience; restore us to the JOY of our salvation. For when we are set free in your love – life changes forever. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.
Come to the Altar – Elevation Worship
Part 3 will focus on Peace: embracing God’s forgiveness and receiving what God has for you…