“There is no refuge from confession but suicide; and suicide is confession.” - Daniel Webster
“Confession is the first step to repentance.” - English Proverb
"It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution” - Oscar Wilde
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." - St. James in James 5:16
While spending 3 days in the beautiful Christ in the Desert Monastery 4 weeks ago, the combination of silence, solitude, the reading of St. John of the Cross' "Dark Night of the Soul", combined with my intentional desire to be rid of subtle sin in my life and exploded into a pretty continual self-awareness of my secret sins popping up within me while I was there.
I kept opening to the back cover of my book, and recorded each "Episode of Conviction", and the circumstances there that surfaced it, so as not to lose sight of each one. I wanted to document my desire to be rid of these sins that are distracting and hindering me from truer righteousness and Christ-likeness.
So here are my Eight Confessions of Subtle Sin: I am sorrowful for...
1) ...for noticing the "audience" watching me. I had submitted myself to the schedule and routine of the monastic life while I was there. During one of the 7 daily community prayer times, where I joined the Monks for their Gregorian Chantings of the Psalms, I caught myself caring about how spiritual I appeared to these monks.
2) ...for wanting to be some great teacher of others vs.. only a learner of God. Maybe this doesn't sound like an evil to you, but that's why I'm calling it "subtle sin". Even if I'm teaching others great truthful things, and their lives are being increasingly "saved" and transformed all the time, if I value my effective teaching of others over God Himself, I have made my work for God my idol. Subtle...but real.
3)) ...for wanting to "bless my team back home" with quotes from my readings and meditations with my own "wise" insight for them. Maybe this doesn't sound like an evil to you. But you have to understand that this was dedicated time with God for my good and His glory in my own learning. To be "learning in order to teach" sabotages my being with and knowing God more intimately.
4) ...for feeling a sense of spiritual superiority when 'day guests' came into the monastery to look around. I'm so ashamed of how quickly I latched onto the sin of ranking people by some superficial (even if it's disguised in spiritual) standard in order to feel better about myself. It's like one cockroach looking at another and feeling superior to him because he only scavenges food from the carpet, and not the nasty tile floor.
5) ...for being afraid that my journey towards every-increasing intimacy with God would ruin me as a preacher/minister. This one might require you reading "Dark Night of the Soul" by St. John of the Cross. He talks of a singular esteem for God that, once it grips your heart and your singular love, changes and annihilates everything of the flesh. Quite frankly, there are things about me that I DO like, and I depend on, and it scares me to try to be something without them.
6) ...for pride of placement in the eyes of others that such spiritual insight would give me. It has taken me weeks to write this email because of (my laziness and) this one. The people who I care about respecting me are the ones who respect my honesty, self-awareness, humility, and vulnerability-regardless-of-the-cost. So to be humble and confessional for the purpose of being respected by some for doing so is something I don't want diluting God's work in me and through me.
7) ...for having the appearance of a "singular-esteem" for Christ in order to stand out among men. These are all starting to sound the same to me, a little bit. But as I got a new definition of what "singular esteem" for God looks like, I realized I don't have one relative to Christ and to others more advanced in this area. This humility forced me to see that in my world, I appear to have a singular esteem for Christ relative to the people I am around (not in all areas, by any means, but in this one). I made this confession to remember to evaluate myself only relative to Christ, so that I will stay humble and useful among men in His name.
8) ...for spiritual satisfaction (arrogance) felt when Brother Markus (a monk I had the honor of doing manual labor with each day) told me that 1) he had not visited with guest in such a spiritually connected way, 2) that God might be using me to tell him to do something personally and spiritually significant to him, and 3) that he might come for a visit in Amarillo at my house when he has a chance. Nuff said, really. Something puffed up in me, I'm once again ashamed to say, when I felt useful and respected by this monk. I am truly pitiful.
But God loves me, and from that I get all of my value. I only desire to be rid of these revealed sins and move on to my struggle with removing the next ones. It is an astounding and life-giving journey, even when it is hard.
Because of what James said in his letter, I'm calling all "righteous men" out there to pray for me so that I may be healed.
May God bless us all.