Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart. – Psalm 32
A little over a year ago, one of the most famous people in the world was interviewed a few hours from here at Austin’s SXSW festival. He was only able to be present on a screen.
Edward Snowden lives in Russia. Just a couple of years ago, he was an anonymous computer geek working for the National Security Agency. There are very different opinions on this young man in our nation: was he a traitor or a whistleblower? Did he put operations at risk or did he uncover harmful practices?
Either way, his revelations started a national conversation on transparency, a conversation driven by several basic questions:
-what is known?
-is what is known accurate – real, representative of reality?
-is accountability possible when things are hidden or secret?
These questions, so loaded and complex in a technologically interwoven world, are some of the most important questions any believer can ask themselves.
Another word for this is simply confession.
Cover-up is a basic, ancient human instinct. “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In Genesis we read of Adam and Eve’s attempt to hide and cover themselves. A little later we come to this: “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.'”
It is human instinct to hide not just the things we’ve done, but the areas where we fall short, as we read in the parable of the talents. Did we waste resource or fail to celebrate gifts out of inertia or fear, then attempt to bury this reality, “safe” and out of sight?
What is known, what is real, what is accurate?
Confession is good for the soul. After all, “while I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” Carrying a burden alone – and knowledge of wrongdoing is heavy; guilt is heavy; regret is heavy – carrying a burden alone will affect your physical health, your mental health, your emotional health, your spiritual health. It will sap your joy and drain your energy.
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide what I did wrong; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Children of attentive parents will remember the odd relief that comes with spilling the beans on the truth of a situation – even when it seems your parent mysteriously already suspects the truth. There is a clearing of the air, a load lifted, even if unpleasant consequences are coming your way.
In the end, the only real safety comes in disclosure. “Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.” When nothing stands between our heart and God’s heart, God can become our hiding place rather than the One from whom we hide. Instead of being a small child hiding behind a couch after blatant wrongdoing, we are the child running to a parent, hiding our faces in their clothes, seeking refuge from fear or pain or danger or confusion.
The guy who started the Methodist movement (along with his brother and a few friends), John Wesley, instructed early members of the Methodist movement to meet regularly in small groups.
Listen to the startling questions that our early Methodist sisters and brother asked each other:
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
4. Can I be trusted?
5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits? – (that is, addictions)
6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
7. Did the Bible live in me today?
8. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
9. Am I enjoying prayer?
10. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
13. Do I disobey God in anything?
14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Am I proud?
19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
22. Is Christ real to me?
Whoa. Many North Americans today would respond that those answers are none of your business; we are private individuals with the freedom to do what we like.
And yet – the purpose of these questions isn’t to make you feel defeated about your life.
The purpose of these questions is to live the reality that every part of our life is open to God and to others – transparency.
“Happy are those in whose spirit there is no deceit…”