God met me in the crowded food court of a Galleria Mall once.
I was on my lunch break from managing the nearby Hallmark store, chewing on a soft pretzel and dripping marinara sauce down the front of my work uniform. I’d brought my pen and journal along with me that day and in between pretzel dips, I had started to write out a prayer. For the past year, I had kept my prayers at surface level.
There was a deep, dark secret I’d locked away in the shadows of my heart, believing God couldn’t see it if I didn’t bring it into the light.
As I wrote out my prayer in that busy food court, I carefully avoided any confession. I’d made a habit of keeping my conversations with God light and shallow, avoiding His penetrating stare with every stroke of my pen. I was side-stepping my sin as usual, until I wasn’t.
The guilt that had been festering for months bubbled to the surface and out of nowhere I found myself fighting back tears. The pen in my hand began to shake as it hovered over the paper and before I knew it, I was confessing my secret onto the page, for God and me to see. I stared at the words, out there in the open; words I’d never spoken out loud to another living soul, including my husband.
I knew writing those words in my prayer journal was just the first step of many I would need to take if I was to be truly free.
Just the thought of it sent me to my knees. Right there, amidst the echoes of crying babies, laughing toddlers enjoying their Happy Meals, mall custodians, and food court employees, I knelt before the Lord and confessed my sin out loud. I had taken my first step toward freedom.
Not everyone has knelt in prayer in a food court before, but most of us know exactly how it feels to be called to the carpet over a sin we’ve held back for too long. And all of us understand the increasing weight of guilt when we carry our unconfessed sin with us day after day, month after month, even year after year.
What takes us so long to surrender it to God?
I believe the answer is the same for everyone: fear. We fear what others will think of us if they know about our sin. We fear we will no longer be loved, accepted, respected, or trusted. We fear we will be abandoned over our admission of guilt. We fear that the love of others, or perhaps even the love of God, is conditional. Our fear speaks so loudly in our ears that we can forget we serve a God who loves mercy, and He requires us to do the same (Micah 6:8).
If this is true then we needn’t fear confessing our sins to God, who meets us with forgiveness every time. Those we’ve sinned against may not always meet us with the same mercy, such is the consequence of sin, but the Bible assures us that healing and freedom are found in confession, a necessary step to restoring what our sin has broken.
After my conviction by the Spirit in the mall, I knew it was time to face the music.
Now that I’d brought my sin before the Lord a bright light was shining on my secret; I couldn’t keep it in the dark any longer. I was gripped with fear at the thought of telling my husband. Surely he would leave me and my marriage would end before it even had time to get off the ground. I chose to confide in a close friend first, giving my confession a practice run and praying she wouldn’t walk away from me the way I was sure my husband would.
After work that day I turned up on her doorstep, heart in my hands. I sank into the deep cushions of her couch, received the freshly brewed cup of coffee she handed me, and I told her everything. My eyes never met hers. I was too ashamed. I waited for the chastising to begin, but it never came. I felt her hand cup my chin, turning my face to hers.
Where I expected to see disappointment, instead I saw love, empathy, and merciful healing.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed,” says James 5:16.
My sweet friend gave me a safe place to reveal my secrets, take off my mask, and step into the light. She spoke to the heavy burden I’d been carrying all alone for so long. She thanked me for trusting her with the truth. She prayed for God to give me courage and faith as I brought my confession to my husband and my family. She held me accountable for my convictions. Above all, she remained my nearest and dearest friend.
We need not fear confession.
God is merciful, as are those who love Him. May we offer mercy to others just as Christ does for us. May we sink into each other’s sofas and share the mess of our hearts, knowing the truth will heal, and the truth will set us free.
~Anne Imboden, Reclaimer
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