As I’m still processing the rubble of my life, there have been two comments/questions that have popped up fairly regularly. The first is “doesn’t it feel good to be finally free of all the secrets?” My answer is “no”.
I’ve alluded to it before, but I had no intention of confessing. I was pretty content to go to my grave with my entire closet of skeletons. Here’s the thing, there are some situations where you may know they are wrong, but part of you is simply not strong enough to change on your own or, frankly, doesn’t want to give them up. In my case, my confession hand was forced.
Two days before, me and the person I was involved with had decided to “break up” (although, given our history, the emotional affair would have probably continued). Already that week, however, some pastors had confronted me without knowing, simply suspecting that something was going on with me that needed to come to light. The weekend “all hell broke loose”, she had ended up confessing to friends. Two separate prickings of the conscience, walls crumbling down, and guilt finding voice. Coincidence to some, God’s hand in action to others.
[With such a reading of events, it’d almost be tempting to be mad at God for the rubble of my life at the moment, but it’s kind of hard to be mad at God for a self-created mess. Seriously, what am I going to say? “Darn You for letting me get caught!”?]
So the short answer is heck no it doesn’t feel good. Nor does it feel especially good for the soul. It feels painful, ugly. It feels like ripping off a bandage only to find the putrefecation of flesh. Exposed woundedness isn’t easy and doesn’t feel good. That’s the point: we can’t get to that place to begin healing without first cleaning out the wound. So no, it doesn’t feel good, but I know it is good.
The second comment/question revolves around the issue of why would you confess also on your blog? Prudence dictates that the matter ought to be kept private and dealt with it in house (if for no other reason than readers will forever be reading things into my work). But this was a choice my wife and I made after talking it through. The fact of the matter is that this sin didn’t just affect my family. It impacted all of my relationships: friends, siblings, church members. We wanted a sense of public accountability. I can’t just run and hide, nor did we want things swept under a rug. That’s partly how we got here in the first place.
It’s easy to feel so caught up in your sin, so absolutely lost, that you can barely form the question “where do you begin to expose the lie?” Seriously, you’re caught up in the moment of being selfish and doing what you want; doing what feels good at the time, with no regard for long term consequences. Oh, you may think you understand the consequences, but you don’t know them. Part of you is afraid to tell, afraid of consequences, to be sure, because the repercussions can ripple far and wide (Loss of relationships. Loss of trust. Loss of respect.). But you’re also afraid of the reality of who you are, drowning in lies to the point that you don’t know where or how to turn for help.
Confession isn’t easy. You may get to that point where you’re out of excuses. You can’t blame your age, your naivete, your parents, your personal history/baggage, someone else tempting/manipulating you. You can’t play the victim. You can’t “spin” your mistakes. No, you have to start by being truly honest. You look in the mirror and realize you made a decision, your own decision. And you have to put on your big boy pants and own up to it and bear the consequences. Saying it out loud that first time, admitting to yourself what you’ve done while simultaneously trying to get your head around the enormity of it all. The truth may come out in drips and drabs. Sometimes it may even be easier to confess to a stranger or another friend rather than your spouse or whoever it is you may have directly hurt. But to hear it out loud, from your own self, makes it real. You can’t help but begin to own it.
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).
Just know that the truth also hurts, but the truth is do-able. We don’t like to be reminded that we’re sinners and we bristle at the thought of being told what to do. That wall of pride shoots up because we want to do what we want to do. Repentance is a call to action, to change, and repentance begins with confession. With many acts of healing, things hurt before they get better. However, only then can we be opened up to freedom from the past and be prepared to look forward to the future with hope.
Secret Lives, Secret Shame