Monday, December 12, 2005

Great Experiences of Life, Part 2: Having Sin Exposed

Part 2 of this series centers around a second event that we do not often think of in positive terms. Most Christians don't think of others calling us out on our sin as an experience that reverberates with the goodness of God, but it does. Having our flaws brought to light is an overwhelmingly positive experience. A few months ago, I got a splinter in my foot. It was terribly painful. The only thing that matched, and definitely exceeded, the pain of the splinter in my foot was the pain that came in extracting the splinter. I didn't know that knuckles could get that white (from gripping the chair on which I sat). I think of having my sins exposed by others as remarkably similar to the splinter extraction. Is there any worse feeling than having another lay bare your awfulness? That side of ourselves that we hide so well is suddenly thrust into the light as a cave-dweller into the open. The pulse rises, our shoulders stiffen, and our mind races to find its familiar excuses. But the truth is too much for us. Sure, we put up a fight, sometimes a strident one, but the Spirit has His way in us, and our defenses eventually fall to the siege of truth. Perhaps that happens by ourselves, hours later, when the fuming has stopped and the excuses go hoarse. Whether instantaneous or tardy, conviction definitely comes. It is a fearful thing, but oh how good for us.

I recently had two key sins pointed out in my life. I went through a form of the defensive process described above but was fairly floored by how well my sin was diagnosed. Sometimes, people sniff out your sin. Other times, they see right through you. In this latest case, you could see my spiritual bones. It wasn't a pretty sight. I felt wretched and gradually experienced anew the Psalm 51 feeling of utter shame and absolute regret. Those who have been convicted of sin know of that which I speak. We do not fall as David did to the dust, but we can taste a bit of it in our mouths. After a season of pretending and conveniently not examining our souls, we re-realize that God has seen it all. Through every foolish choice, through every self-focused thought, through every premeditated desire, He's calmly, clearly, exhaustively seen it all. We haven't hidden anything. We haven't gotten away with anything. We are as bare as Adam and Eve were in the garden, and we're the only ones who don't know it. How humiliating this is, but how wonderful. We had locked ourselves away from mercy, and now we can find it.

It is truly great (in the sense of a powerfully impacting experience) to have our sins exposed. It is amazing to think that others can know us, however imperfectly and perhaps only briefly, as we truly are. Good as we are at pretending and covering up, we are often found out. This is the stuff of humility. It is also the stuff of grace. Once running from God, we find our course reversed after exposure. Now, we run to God, and cry out for mercy. Incredibly, we always find it. It is always there. The stores are never empty. They always brim. And so far from being closed off when we sin, they are opened. God promises the sinful confessor that he will find mercy. Unlike our earthly confessions as children, which brought necessary and immediate punishment, the spiritual confession to God by the Christian meets no retribution. Christ drank all that fury on the cross. We are free, and we are forgiven. Truly, this is a beautiful mystery.

May we all know the power of exposed sin, and be open to this necessary practice. May we see God's goodness in it, and see after it has come that the confessor's path never leads to darkness and pain, but to the way of life and joy unending. May we find that path each day.


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