I grew up Catholic and was raised with the idea that I needed to confess my sins during confession--only talking with a priest about the darkness of my heart was horrifying for me but I was trapped, since that was the only way to experience the sacrament was to go through him. I didn't care how nice these guys were, I really didn't want to say much to them .
As I got older, the more horrifying the idea became. I took sin really seriously and it was hard dealing with the crushing weight of guilt. On the outside, I seemed to be a good girl, but I knew with all the intensity of my heart that was not true. I was disrespectful, unkind, selfish, rebellious and angry. It was hard for my family to live with me and I was having a difficult time even living with myself. And I desperately wanted to change. To be loving, peaceful, self-controlled, mature, thoughtful and generous. I didn't know how to deal with my negative emotions. I didn't know where to begin. And talking with a priest about it seemed to be a waste of time to me.
When I went to college, I started going to a bible study about the promises of God. I was assured that God would forgive me. I did a basic topical bible study about God's forgiveness and how it was possible through Christ dying for me. I memorized 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Based on this and a lot of other verses, I began to believe that God's throne is a throne of grace, and that He lavishes His grace on us. I had nothing to fear in confessing what God already knew about me, and that He longed to hear from me that I had sinned against Him and Him only. And most of all, that He is faithful to listen to me, that He is righteous and that He is able to cleanse me from all that offends Him. He cares that much about us.
This particular promise was a major turning point for me. Despite all the failures, sins and weaknesses that I had to bring before Him, and still continue to, I was assured that His love never ceases, His kindnesses never fail, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.
And I didn't change by sinning less. I find that I change more by believing in His compassion, believing that He welcomes my confessions of sins and imperfections and believing that He is not tired of cleansing me and renewing me.
Even after all these years.
I, on the other hand, do get to the point of forgetting to confess, to talk things over with God about my need for His grace and to receive His forgiveness. As I become callous to the effect of sin on my relationship to Him, I also become callous to the effect of my sin on my relationship to others around me in my life. I stop caring so much. That's what we call a hardened heart. When I get like this, I was much better off as a guilt-ridden, desperate teenager who at least cared about how she affected others even though she was confused as to how to deal with it.
The problem with the hard heartedness is that on the outside you seem okay and you are fooled into thinking that you really are. Pretty soon, the little dark secrets that you take for granted begin to grow into the big dark secrets that go off like bombs in your life, hurting and burning and scarring the people you relate to. The closer the relationships, the deeper the hurt. And pretty soon, you don't even know who you are anymore. And that cozy and vulnerable openness you had with God seems like a far distant dream.
So my prayerlife pretty much sums up as a wild desperate cry for God to keep me honest, to love the truth and live by it. And, to love Him first and most and best of all. To search me, know me and tell me if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in His kind and gentle way everlasting....whatever it takes.
Whatever it takes.