Fear and loneliness are two inseparable lovers with a tragic common denominator: they seek to destroy the Kingdom within.
The Kingdom within. As believers, together we share this sacred bond. The Kingdom unites us—makes us one body. We need each other to function, to live, to thrive and to be Christ’s love and mercy here on earth. We are assured this communion will be challenging. The Gospel of John says the enemy is only out to defeat us. He is focused. He is attentive.
Fear and loneliness permeate the soul of our world. A recent survey conducted by the American Sociological Review noted that a quarter of Americans say they don’t have a close friend to confide in. When you add on the culturally imposed (and widely erroneous) requirements of “being a good Christian” today, I imagine that percentage goes up for those in religious circles. A community of believers should be the safest place one could turn and admit weaknesses. But in a world where holiness is based on a scale of morality and being faithful means never having doubts, it’s no wonder we keep our mouths shut and our masks on.
Attempts to foster community have turned into programs where we are afraid to be our true selves—if we’re even given the chance to be our true selves to begin with; sometimes the clock rules the day. Genuine fellowship requires commitment, sacrifice and grace, but when we hear the word fellowship, we think coffee and potlucks or a church picnic. The vocabulary of community has changed, and with it, so have our experiences. We’re compelled to schedules and appearances but not obligated one to another. The business of community satisfies our appetite for productivity, but it does nothing to nourish the relational anemia that afflicts us.
Letting all disguises fall off and confessing appropriately in the context of community is not an easy or painless process. However, it’s completely necessary in order for us to experience the full and abundant life God has for us and for the body we’re a part of.
If you’re tussling with something, you may be apprehensive to discuss it with someone. What will happen to your ministry if you confess? What will people think? We often dwell on potential consequences of our confession, but how often do we consider the consequences of our concealment? Admitting something may cause life to be messy for a while, but ultimately there is healing and grace in confession. There is power in truth, and it’s truth alone that will set us free from our fear and our loneliness.
Two beautiful things happen when we open up our deepest wounds and let the infection bleed over and out. First, we are humbled, vulnerable and ready to accept grace and healing. But there’s a consequential event: We give others permission to uncover their injuries and their shame. Creating an environment of safety and trust is a gift you can give by confessing. Sure, it’s difficult. It can be embarrassing. And there isn’t much of a guarantee in how the person on the other side of your confession will respond.
But why not take a chance? Perhaps after your admission, the bond between two people will be strengthened with the power of truth that is present in the practice of confession.
Anne Jackson is an author, speaker and strategy consultant based in Grand Rapids, Mich. She is currently pursuing a degree in clinical psychology and in her free time loves to bake cupcakes and read old books. You can find her on Facebook.