As I write this article, it's spring in the Colorado Rockies. Yesterday, a yellow-breasted bird sang from a tree outside my bedroom window. Today, the sun is shining. It's the time of year when people get out their brooms, mops and sponges to clean the nooks, crannies and hard-to-get-to spots in their homes that have accumulated dirt and grime during the winter.
I recently considered that spring is not only a good time to clean the dust bunnies from the top of my curtain rods, but to do a "spring cleaning of the heart" by confessing my sins to God and others. Sure, this can be uncomfortable. But if I follow God's command in I John 1:9 (If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.), that can bless me in ways I never imagined. It can bless you, too.
Confession is a way to give—and receive—deeper love
I admit it. I'm not like Martha Stewart. Sometimes I don't make my bed; I pile ready-to-fold laundry on the couch (which may stay there for several days), and I occasionally stack dirty dishes in the sink. While I have improved my housekeeping skills by leaps and bounds over the years, I still have a lot of work to do to before I become another Heloise.
This isn't usually a problem until one of my girlfriends calls and says, "Hey, I thought I'd stop by. I'm just around the corner."
Then, as soon as I hang up, I run and slam the bedroom door (to hide my disheveled bed), shove the clean clothes from the couch onto the closet floor in the bathroom and find a creative way to conceal the dirty dishes. Within minutes, when my friend arrives, I bounce to the front door, put on my Martha-Stewart smile and act like I have it altogether.
Only I know I don't.
My friend may not have a clue about my mess, but I do—and because I do, I don't feel completely accepted. After all, we can only feel wholly loved when others know all about us and embrace us anyway.
Last week my friend Maxine called to say she was stopping by. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to hide a very large pile of laundry that had spilled from the closet onto the bathroom floor.
When 'Max' asked, "Can I use your bathroom?" I blushed. "Sure," I said. "I'm reeeeaaally sorry about that laundry. I need to fold it."
"Oh, girl," she said. "Believe me, I know. Sometimes I'm like a tornado at my place." She wasn't bothered in the least by my mess. Instead, she accepted me.
I felt loved.
In the same way, when we experience honest and transparent relationships with God and others that involve confession, we have the opportunity to give and receive love in a deeper way.
Confession relieves us from the lie that we have to be perfect
Last year my friend, *Sarah, who has struggled with perfectionism, decided to be more honest about her temptations with her closest friends. She said, "If I confess my flaws and sins, then I won't feel like I have to be perfect."
Several months later, when she was tempted by sexual sin, she contacted her long-time girlfriend, *Laura, to pour out her heart. "You've really grown," Laura said. "In the past, you would have never admitted your struggles. You're more real than you've ever been."
Through her confession, and Laura's grace, Sarah felt set free from the burden to be perfect.
Are you afraid to confess your sins to others? Does pride, fear or perfectionism prevent you from allowing others to see your "messes of the heart?" If you sometimes struggle with allowing others to see the truth of who you are, I invite you to take a baby step toward being more transparent with a trusted friend.
Confession is a reason to rejoice
When I was in college, one of my closest friends said to me, "A lot of people think that confession is a bummer, but it's really a reason to rejoice." His statement struck me because at that point, I hadn't ever thought of admitting sin as a reason to get happy, but it is.
In Psalm 51, when King David confessed his sin to God about his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, he experienced relief from a heavy spirit (vs. 3-4), a renewed joy in his relationship with God, and forgiveness. Verse 5 says, Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Confession is a reason to rejoice, just like my friend said, because it leads us to a renewed love relationship with God.
If you're convinced of some of the benefits of confession, here are some questions to consider from A Personal Guide to Spiritual Cleansing and Revival by Dr. Gregory R. Frizzell. While this is in no way a complete list of sins, it will still help you begin a "spring cleaning of the heart." I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you as you work through each of the following questions and look up the corresponding scriptures. If God shows you that you have committed any of the following sins, confess your sin to God, and repent so you can experience renewed joy like David.
Questions for confession:
Question: Do lustful, unclean thoughts frequently enter your mind? Do you watch programs on television that stimulate improper thoughts or feelings?
Scripture: Matthew 5:28
Question: Do your affections primarily revolve around people or things other than Jesus? Are you more passionate about earthly things than Christ? What things primarily fill your thoughts?
Scripture: Psalms 1:2
Question: Do you do things to draw attention to yourself? Do you promote yourself and tend to put others down? Do you think only in terms of your own needs and desires?
Scripture: Philippians 2:3-4
Question: Do you often gripe and complain about your situation in life? Do you fail to give God thanks?
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:10
Question: Do you ever speak slang or swear words that are inappropriate? Do you use God's name in vain?
Scripture: Ephesians 4:29
Question: Do you harbor bitterness toward anyone? Have you refused to forgive someone who has wronged you?
Scripture: Matthew 18:35, Ephesians 4:31, 1 Corinthians 1:10
Question: Do you make excuses why you cannot serve God? Are you content to be served rather than serve?
Scripture: Ephesians 4:8
Question: Have you committed any form of sexual immorality or uncleanness?
Scripture: Ephesians 5:5
Question: Do you think you are quite spiritual? Do you often criticize and judge others?
Scripture: 1 Peter 5:5
If God has shown you that you are guilty of any of these sins, rejoice that you are forgiven and that Christ died for any and all sins that you have committed (Isaiah 1:18). And remember—you can do a "spring cleaning of the heart" during any season of life.
(* Names have been changed.)
Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo. (www.runtogodministries.org)