About two months ago I volunteered to be part of a blog review team looking at a new book titled Deeply Loved by Keri Wyatt Kent. The book is a devotional with the subtitle, “40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus”. The original plan was to read the book during the season of Lent (one chapter for each of the 40 days), but since the book just arrived last week I’m a little behind… So I read a few chapters to get me in the swing of things, then jumped forward to where I would have been had I started on Ash Wednesday (which, for the record, was February 13).
Kent’s writing immediately drew me in. Each chapter is roughly 5-6 pages long, with some very specific application suggestions on the last page. When I first started reading the chapters some of the titles reminded me of spiritual disciplines to practice (confession, gratitude, simplicity), but I found they were much more than that. Each chapter highlights a specific insight into how (can) relate to Christ. I’ve found that spending time each day going through the chapter has drawn me into deeper meditation on the nature and person of Jesus Christ and, as a result, my relationship with him.
So today marks the first of several posts I’ll write about the book. I’ll be doing at least once a week between now and Easter, perhaps more if time allows. Today I want to highlight my thoughts on one chapter in particular: Confession.
This chapter, in particular, brought some fresh insight into the act of confession for me. Kent tells the story of when her six year old daughter confessed of being envious of her brother and how she (the daughter) felt like such a terrible person for feeling that way. Kent then told how she processed with her daughter the difference between thoughts and actions, what sin was, etc, and how the entire experience brought them closer together rather than force them apart. Having daughters of my own, I related to this. When they come to me with struggles they don’t need (or want or expect) condemnation but confirmation, love, support, and forgiveness. They confess when they are confident of these things. Kent then compared this situation to our relationship with Jesus; she writes,
The spiritual practice of confession looks exactly like my daughter coming to me to admit her jealous thoughts. We come to Jesus and own up to our thoughts and actions that are wrong. He receives these soberly, not brushing them under the rug as if they didn’t matter. But neither does he shame us. In confession, we sit with Jesus and look boldly at the truth about our struggle against sin and come clear. We are washing in grace…Jesus sees our struggles. What we confess, he already knows. We do not confess to inform him but to access the grace he wants to give us. He is moved with compassion by our plight and wants to help us. Compassion accesses that assistance.”
This section brought such a warm, loving, and open reaction in me to the act of confession that it really helped clarify what has become (for whatever reason) so foggy. Confession isn’t about punishment, but about forgiveness. John tells us in his letter that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). One Bible teacher I heard once told me that the word that is translated as “If” here can also be translated as “when”, so that instead of “if we confess” we could (and perhaps should” read it as “when we confess” – it’s a promise that should bring hope and healing, not condemnation and shame.
Kent goes on to conclude,
When we imagine God’s forgiveness as a huge blanket to cover the entire world, we keep him distant. But when we specifically name the ways in which we have fallen short, he comes to us and wraps us, individually, in the warm embrace of his love. Confession…builds intimacy. (emphasis mine)
What a beautiful picture of what God has given us! One the last page of the chapter Kent then highlights some very practical and easy steps to take to practice confession. The last phrase she wrote (that confession builds intimacy) reminds me of something my father once told me; he says, “God doesn’t have favorites, but he does have intimates, and anyone can be an intimate of God.” We know that in any relationships there is always one person who loves and cares more than the other person – it’s the nature of relationships – and it is the one who cares less who controls the level of intimacy in the relationship. Because of our fallen nature, it’s only natural to realize that when it comes to our relationship with God we are the ones who naturally care less, meaning we control the level of intimacy in the relationship, and we have to choose to be intimate with Him. Confession is a choice we can make in the right direction.
For a free copy of the first chapter, please click this link