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Holy Spirit disruptions: Confess and admit

Lynne Baab • Friday August 6 2021

Holy Spirit disruptions: Confess and admit

I’m reading a book on narcissism. The author has a list of ten things people with narcissistic personality order don’t do. Number one on the list is apologize and number ten is admit vulnerability. Most of us, and most Christians, have at least a slight tendency toward narcissism – after all, we are really only aware of our own situation, emotions, priorities, values, etc. – and for many people, admitting wrong-doing or vulnerability doesn’t come naturally. The Holy Spirit disrupts our sense of complacency and self-righteousness by asking us to confess our sins, which requires some level of vulnerability.

I think there are also people who are so aware of their own shortcomings that they have virtually no narcissistic characteristics at all. They are so eager to please the people around them that they are most aware of others’ emotions, priorities and values. For those people, perhaps the challenge isn’t confessing sins. Perhaps for them the real battle comes in accepting God’s forgiveness.

I was raised in the Episcopal Church, and I heard the same beautiful prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer most Sundays in church. It begins like this. I have always liked the emphasis on sin as things we have done and things we have left undone.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.

This week I had an email exchange with someone who had read a devotional I wrote about ACTS prayer, where the “C” refers to confession. She told me she had been raised with PART prayer (praise, admissions, requests, thanks). I’ve been pondering how helpful the words “admissions” or “admit” would be for me in prayers of confession. Here are two examples:

“Lord, I admit that I’ve been frustrated with a few people in my life. I really don’t know when frustration slides into sin. I admit that I have had negative thoughts about them. I’ve tried to love them, but I’m pretty sure the love hasn’t been very strong. Maybe I could have showed love to them in some way that I simply didn’t do.”

“God of peace, I admit to you that I get so angry when I read the news. I don’t know when my anger is just, reflecting your character and values, and when my anger is sinful. I admit that I can think vindictive thoughts about the people in news stories. I’m sure there’s some way I could rest in your peace about our world, and I’m not doing it.”

I often wonder whether the thoughts of my mind and heart are sinful or not, so this “admit” language helps me bring to God my confusion. Here are two more sentences from the prayer of confession from my childhood:

We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

Those statements help to clarify that yes, I am sinning when I am not loving irritating people with my whole heart. But somehow, using “admit” helps me lay out my thoughts and my questions honestly and transparently to God.

In the communion services of my childhood, the prayer of confession was always introduced with these verses from 1 John 1:8, 9: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Which is harder for you, to confess your sins or to receive forgiveness from God through Christ? If you used the word “admit” in your prayers, what might you admit that you haven’t thus far been praying about?

The Holy Spirit is at work disrupting our views of ourselves, conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ, a man of honesty, wholeness, love, and peace.

(Next week: choosing disruption. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive and email when I post on this blog.)

I spoke at a conference about bringing spiritual practices to life. I finally got the recording uploaded to YouTube. It’s 41 minutes long, and I think it’s one of the best talks I’ve ever given.

Previous posts about confession of sin: 

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