Confessions of Our Generation
By Allison Vesterfelt
October 11, 2011
Allison Vesterfelt is a writer, speaker, thinker, dreamer, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living LIfe with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She travels often, but lives in Nashville, Tenn. with her husband, Darrell. You can follow her daily at her website or on Twitter.
“I want a divorce,” Jen said as we waited for Tara’s wedding to begin. We were sitting on the steps outside of the venue holding colorful bouquets and she was speaking through clenched teeth words that dripped with hurt and fear and anger. Quiet piano music played over the speakers in the background.
“I’m not going to get a divorce,” she said, turning to me. “But I want one.” And a minute later she added, “It feels really good to say that.”
I watched quietly as my good friend confessed her most shameful secret and witnessed a tangible weight lift from her shoulders. Her whole countenance changed. There’s something really powerful about confession.
Where did we get the idea as Christians that we aren’t supposed to have thoughts like this? We’re supposed to pretend like all we do is just sit around thinking about Bible verses or Jesus on the Cross or singing hymns to ourselves in our room. But the truth is that we’ve all thought things, felt things or done things that make us feel less-than-Christian. Heck, we might even be thinking, feeling or doing these things right now.
There is something powerful about confession.
"Confessions of a 20-something Christian" was a blog series idea that came to me as I thought about the power of confession and the safety that inspires us to speak the truth. I wondered what would happen if I offered a space online for my peers to admit their deepest darkest secrets. Would they feel safe enough to write? Would we all experience healing? Release?
I pitched the idea to a few of my favorite bloggers (Nicole Cottrell, Matt Appling, Kyle Reed and Darrell Vesterfelt) and they agreed to join. I figured if we made confessions it might inspire others to do the same. So we did. And we opened the door for our readers to do the same.
What we found was that the things we think, feel and do that make us feel less than Christian are precisely the things that connect us to each other. We have more in common than we realize ...
“All along the way I never felt right about sex. I always had a feeling that what I was doing was something wrong, dirty or shameful. I went along with it because, well, it’s what all the cool kids were doing. … I had sex because I was looking for something.”
“I have this idea that God is in the reward business. The more I put in the slot machine, the bigger reward I will receive in the end.”
“I never set out to hate myself. I never planned to go there. But in no time at all I went from happy kid to distant and depressed young man. I don’t even like to speak out loud the names that I was given in high school ...”
“When I was a teenaged preacher’s kid, I went right down the middle of the road. I didn’t become some crazed proselyte, trying to convert my entire school. But I also didn’t go off the deep end and embarrass my parents by getting drunk on three buck chuck and wrecking their car.”
Before the day ended, other confessions started to pour in... I’m in therapy ... I’m a people-pleaser ... I don’t know who I am ... I still believe the lies ... I don’t think models are “too skinny” ... I’m a judgmental hypocrite ... I’m tired of going to weddings ... I’m afraid of commitment ... I can’t follow all the rules ...
And a dozen others ...
James 5:16 says: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
But I don’t do it just because it’s in the Bible. I do it because it’s healing and helpful, and it’s in the Bible for exactly those reasons. God wants help and healing for us.
Confession is powerful because it reminds us of who we really are. When we speak our shortcomings and failures out loud, it points to the truth of who we are. My friend Jen, for example confessed that she wanted a divorce, but it was in that confession she realized what she really wanted was to end the pain and fear she was feeling. Even more than that, she wanted to make her marriage work.
Confession reveals our true heart. When we confess that the way we acted or thought was not in line with our true intent, we get to quit being someone we’re not.
Confession is powerful because it connects us to people. Our natural instinct when we’re afraid is fight or flight, defensiveness or secrets. We keep secrets when we’re ashamed because it’s our way of staying safe, but there’s no way to have close relationships with people who don’t know our secrets. When we speak our shame out loud, we realize we’re not the only ones who have felt, done or thought those things we consider to be so shameful. It levels the playing field. We have more in common than we think we do.
Confession is powerful because it brings healing. I love what the verse in James says: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Prayer can bring healing. The prayer of a righteous man. Who is a righteous man? All of us. Everyone, regardless of what we have to confess, is considered righteous when he or she accepts the free gift that Jesus offered on the cross.
Do we believe what the Bible says about confession? When was the last time you confessed to someone?
Ally Spotts is a 20-something writer, runner, teacher, dreamer, thinker and reader living in Portland, OR. She keeps a blog about things that interest her, including faith, running, travel adventures and relationships & dating. She is also currently working on a book about chasing her dreams on a 50-State Road Trip. This article was adapted from her blog with permission.