My earliest experiences as a Christian with confession were always pretty tearful. I believed the truest thing about me was a list of all my sins. And as a person for whom shame was a way of being, the idea of confessing my sins to someone else besides God was an impossible barrier. To begin with, I couldn’t even share my feelings, much less those faults and weaknesses I perceived in myself. I could barely admit my feelings to myself, much less others. I remember at one point listing out all of my transgressions on a sheet of paper and presenting them to God. I expected condemnation, but received grace. Still, part of me believed that God, while forgiving, was keeping score.
Who can stand in the face of a stern, condemning God?
My default was to hide my faults and mistakes from myself and others in order to avoid the inevitable disappointment of God. Mindfulness cannot happen in the absence of confession.
What helped me change this in part was a book by Nancy Missler called Be Ye Transformed. In it she discusses the inner court ritual practice by the priests in their temple duties. They performed it throughout the day, every time they needed to enter the inner court. The first part of the ritual involves the bronze lavers. These were large bronze bowls on bronze pedestals. The inside of each bowl was mirrored so the priest could see himself. The priest would look at his reflection, make his confession, and then wash his hands before he could handle the sacrifice brought by a supplicant.
The mirrored bowl fascinated me. When we look at a mirror, we experience ourselves in two ways. Firstly, we see our faces and bodies as they are, flaws and assets staring back at us. Secondly, we see what others see. In that moment we are mindful of who we are. As I learned to look into the bronze laver in my mind, I began to own my emotions and belief systems in a deeper way. I would look at the mirror in my soul and see sadness, frustration, and anger, but I also saw gifts, glimmers of joy, and deep affection for my family.
The New Testament rounds out the meaning of confession. The root of the word in the Greek means to say the same thing. For awhile I puzzled over this. The same thing as what? But remember the mirror. I confessed what I saw. In confession, I am restating what my heart knows, what my body feels, and what my mind believes. In the New Testament, confession is not merely a stating of failure; it is a profession of faith. I confess Jesus and His resurrection even as I confess my humanity in both its fallen state and as a reflection of God’s image.
Before I could learn to confess to others my shortcomings, I had to learn how to simply confess my reality.
To confess reality is to practice mindfulness. Like the priests going about their daily duties, I try to stay in this state of confession/ mindfulness. Nothing is too small to bring to God’s notice. If I am frustrated, I own it, and like the priests, I wash my hands of it, commending it to God’s care. If I have a moment of blessing, I choose to experience it fully, taking a moment to profess thankfulness.
Confession holds for me the keys to great freedom. If I acknowledge who I am and where I am at, to God, myself, and others, I am no longer held by the fear of exposure. My view of myself is far more nuanced, taking in the lamentable flaws but also the glory of being alive and moving in both my destiny as well as partaking in the mysteries of Christ.
He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Exodus 38:8
…and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phillippians 2:11
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16