7Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
from Psalm 25:1-10
7Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us… those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you.
from Daniel 9:1-14
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
from 1 John 1:3-10
There exists a relationship between sinning and shame, unbroken and unfettered, codependent and conspiratorial. You can’t seem to have one without the other. Which comes first? Ask the chicken…or the egg. Sin lead to shame and shame leads to sin. Doing something bad (sinning) leads to being something bad (shame) — or vice versa. (Are we sinners because we sin or do we sin because we are sinners?)
It is established knowledge that Sin turns us back inwards on ourselves, or, as Martin Luther would have it: in curvatus in se (curved in upon oneself). In this sin is not freeing, even if it feels good, but is active in driving us away from others and into shame.
Sin is inescapable, but what of shame? Is it avoidable only insofar as we avoid sin? Is shame an inevitability?
Shame is the greater sin, a double sin, an aftershock that was greater than the first earthquake. Perhaps shame is our response to sin. Shame is our lack of faith to trust mercy and forgiveness. Shame is not penance to please God, nor is it an appropriate behavior modification tool. It just doesn’t work. Shame leads us further from the light. Shame leads us to hide, rather than be known.
The Christian life is not a pious practice in avoiding sin, nor is it in pretending the sin does not exist. The Christian life is a deep and abundant invitation to name the sin amongst and within us. You’ve got baggage? Join the club! We are gathered around one who heals us, one who entered our very brokenness in order to make us whole.
Welcome to the church. Brokenness is a prerequisite.
But that’s hardly the practice on a Sunday morning. The silence between the invitation to and prayer of confession is a brief one, if it exists at all. Show your scars, not your wounds. Struggles are past tense items in our history books, not current events. For good reason. Of all places, the Church has been good at rubbing salt in wounds rather than healing or sharing in woundedness.
I love the story that Fr. Greg Boyle shares about one of his homeboys who used to wear three t-shirts to hide the blood and wounds given by his mother. Later, he would say, “the wounds are my friends.” In so many different ways we are all wounded.
Maybe the confession we can offer is to say that we don’t really know what’s going on here. That we’re trying to make sense of it. That we’re on the mend. That every step is an arrival. That we do fall short.
I am broken. You are broken. We are broken. It’s how it is. It’s going to be ok. God is among us, mending us through our Christ.
I know my destination, I’m just not there yet.