Building Transparent Relationships One Mess at a Time
Today my nine-year-old, who is a great conversationalist and especially likes asking difficult questions to get people talking, asked my 72-year-old mother what was one sin she committed today that she’d like to confess to us all. Gulp! That’s what I get for spending half of our homeschool time on the gospel, a child who asks the really uncomfortable questions, oops. But the question was a good one, if not for casual conversation with your grandparent, it was a healthy and self-aware question, I tell myself so as not to feel to embarrassed. My mom, however, is of a generation where things like sin aren’t talked about casually. So I jumped in and told Addy that, that was a question best directed to herself. After all, not everyone wants to be so transparent. And then I proceeded to offer up a couple of my own beauties (by which I mean sins).
While some parents might think this to be a dangerous way to fall on the grenade for a parent, I see it as an opportunity to give the gospel wings. After all, my sin isn’t a surprise to my daughter, who spends her entire waking life alongside of me as we do life together. If I’ve taught her anything, I’ve taught her that I’m a sinner. There’s just no hiding it: we live too close together.
There was a time when I feared my sin: when I looked in the mirror and regretted my imperfections: when I tried to cover up my mistakes and hide from my foolishness. But then I started to teach my daughter the gospel and suddenly I saw it, my failure is God’s glory. It was quite an awakening. So long had I told myself that my goodness alone would bring glory to God, that my sinfulness and mess became something I wanted to shove in the closet when company came over. But make it the object of show-and-tell? How could I do that? Isn’t that just giving sin the glory?
But then I saw that the gospel has no power without my sin. If you think that statement looks heretical, I agree, but looks can be deceiving. If I were perfect, rather than imperfect, then what Christ did on that cross would be useless: I’d have no need for it, for him. In fact, the whole coming to earth as a man and dying for our sins thing would be a waste of his time (see Galatians 2:21), because I would be proof that we could do it for ourselves: that the gospel was just one of many paths to God. But my confession of sin is a verbal embrace of my need for a Savior, and so that’s why I freely tell my daughter my confessions. Not all of them, not the ones she has no clue about, not the ones that would scare her or make her aware of sins she’s too young to understand, but the sin that she is party to, the sin that she sees on my face when I am resentful, or in my tone when I am harsh, these sins I name as sin.
Our confessions don’t take away our power but reinforce it, as our truth telling gives all the glory to God as we simply confirm what inquisitive minds already notice: that we all are imperfect and in need of rescue. Our confessions keep us from hypocrisy, from pretend living, from faking it and teaching our kids to fake it too. My confession is just my verbal agreement with what God has said, that anything that I do that is inconsistent with the life of Christ is sin. Sometimes I worry over my imperfections and weaknesses because I think there is a way to be perfect and to be done once and for all with the mess of my life. I guess you could say that subconsciously I think that there is a way to get to God without Christ, but that would mean that Christ was a lune, doing what he did to save us when we could just do it ourselves. I want to try to see my imperfections as an opportunity to recognize my need for a Savior and to remind anyone who will listen that without admitting my sin I have no access to God (see 1 John 1:10). I want my sins to matter. I don’t want them to be for nothing, for destruction, for ruin, I want them to be for God’s glory, and so I have to talk about them and to freely confess the righteousness I have that comes from faith in Christ alone (see Galatians 3:21-22), and not from my attempt at perfection.
In an effort to build more transparent and meaningful relationships I’m am trying to do what’s different for me and that is to let people into my life so that I can let Christ out. So welcome to the messiness of what different does.
“if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:21-22